Substitute Wout Weghorst swept in a late winner two minutes after coming on as former champions the Netherlands began their Euro 2024 campaign with victory against Poland at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion.

In the hours before kick-off a man was shot by police close to where fans had been gathering in the city, but the game went ahead and delivered an entertaining encounter.

Poland were without their all-time top scorer Robert Lewandowski, out with a thigh injury, but put that blow behind them to stun the Dutch early on when Adam Buksa headed home.

The Netherlands had been the dominant side but missed a number of chances before Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo equalised when his deflected shot flew past Wojciech Szczesny.

The Dutch continued to create opportunities and Gakpo should have got his second before the break but sent Nathan Ake’s pullback over from close range.

Ronald Koeman’s side continued to dominate after the break and Szczesny denied Denzel Dumfries, before exciting youngster Xavi Simons drove an effort wide after being set up by Gakpo.

But just as it looked like they would have to settle for a draw, Burnley striker Weghorst – introduced in the 81st minute – snatched the win with a close-range finish moments after coming on.

It is a big win for the Netherlands with France up next for them in Group D on Friday, while Poland face Austria on the same day.

The Netherlands have not won the European Championship since 1988 – when current boss Koeman was a player for them – but are among the favourites to triumph in Germany.

They possess a strong blend of youth and experience, despite losing key playmaker Frenkie de Jong just before the tournament with an ankle injury, and had been in strong form going into these Euros with back-to-back 4-0 friendly wins against Canada and Iceland.

Their confident and accurate passing led to a number of chances and they should have been out of sight, before Buksa struck with one of Poland’s first chances.

Gakpo deservedly got them level but finishing continued to be an issue for the Dutch as opportunities to take the lead came and went.

Koeman sent on one-time Manchester United loanee Weghorst as a late throw of the dice and it quickly paid off as the big striker showed the movement and finishing his side had lacked to secure three valuable points.

This was more late heroics from Weghorst, who scored a stoppage-time equaliser against Argentina at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“Wout Weghorst was able to play and he has added value to the team. He has a different way of behaving and that is what we needed,” Koeman said.

“This should have been 4-1 in favour of us after one hour. We played very well but couldn’t finish opportunities.

“Cody Gakpo also played very well. He was dangerous and we should give him the ball more often.”

Poland beaten, but can play without Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski applauds his Poland team-mates from the benchLewandowski was a vocal presence on the touchline for Poland

Poland had been dealt a blow in the lead up to this tournament with the news that Lewandowski would not be fit enough to start the first game.

But in the hours before kick-off, some Polish fans had suggested they were keen to see how their side would fare without the Barcelona forward and they will have been in general encouraged by this display.

The late goal was a sucker punch but Buksa, the man who came in for Lewandowski, impressed, making the most of his opportunity when he flicked in the opener at the near post.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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