Netherlands flattered to deceive but kicked off their World Cup campaign with a narrow 2-0 win over African Champions Senegal in front of a half-full Al Thumama stadium.
It was a first half full of half chances but without any clear-cut opportunity, as Frenkie de Jong and Gakpo both squandered good opportunities, while Senegal remained a massive threat on the flanks, especially through Watford talent Ismaila Sarr.
Virgil van Dijk nodded over, before Boulaye Dia forced the first real save of the encounter in the 65th minute, with Andries Noppert moving down low smartly at his near post to keep the scores level.
The breakthrough finally came, with six minutes to play, as De Jong floated a ball into the box, which was met by Gakpo jumping just ahead of Edouard Mendy as he flicked the ball into the corner.
Senegal looked to fight back immediately, with Pape Gueye forcing Noppert into another good save as they pushed for an equaliser. However, deep into stoppage time they were caught on the break, with Mendy palming an initial Memphis Depay shot straight into the path of Davvy Klaasen to hand the scoreline a somewhat unfair gloss.
It leaves Netherlands joint top of the group with Ecuador ahead of their clash with hosts Qatar, while Senegal will need a result against the South Americans when they meet later in the week.
GK: Andries Noppert - 7
Looked unfazed on his debut and did all that was asked of him well.
RWB: Denzel Dumfries - 5
Really struggled in the first half against Sarr, and couldn’t get forward with his usual flair. One to forget for the wing-back.
CB: Matthijs de Ligt - 4
Like Dumfries, struggled in the opening 45 minutes after being preferred to Jurrien Timber on the right side of defence. Better in the second half but not much.
CB: Virgil Van Dijk - 5
Looked well off the pace in the first half, though he improved somewhat in the second.
CB: Nathan Ake - 6
Didn’t really put a foot wrong for his side. The surest of the Dutch defenders.
LWB: Daley Blind - 6
Tidy in possession but clearly well past his best. Better teams are likely to exploit the space left in behind the wing-back.
CM: Steven Berghuis - 6
Saw lots of the ball but couldn’t really do anything with it in midfield.
CM: Frenkie de Jong - 6
Couldn’t have his usual metronomic effect on the game, and made mistakes in both boxes in an uncharacteristically shoddy showing. As is so often the case, however, he came up with a moment of quality.
RW: Cody Gakpo - 6
Came into the game with a big reputation but flattered to deceive on the wing. Was better through the middle and timed his run well to nod past Mendy for the winner.
LW: Steven Bergwijn - 5
Showed flashes of quality but was very much below par in the absence of Depay.
ST: Vincent Janssen - 4
Didn’t really offer much and it was no surprise to see him make way after an hour.
Memphis Depay - 6
Clearly not fully fit but added some poise and elegance to the Netherlands attack
Davy Klaasen - 6
Didn’t have much of an impact on the game, but was in the right place to tap in a second goal deep into added time.
Teun Koopmeiners - 5
Came on late in the piece to sure up midfield. Hardly touched the ball.
Marten de Roon- N/A
Was a stoppage time substitute.
GK: Edouard Mendy - 4
Had very little to do but will be furious that he allowed Gakpo to beat him to the ball in the dying minutes, before a poor parry in stoppage time allowed Netherlands to double their lead.
RB: Youssouf Sabaly - 5
Decided to take the shooting responsibilities on by himself in the absence of Sadio Mane. Always enthusiastic but rarely accurate.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly - 6
Marshalled his troops well but was beaten too easily in the dying moments.
CB: Pape Alou Cisse - 6
Looked solid against a blunted Netherlands attack.
LB: Abdou Diallo - 6
Was having a strong evening until injury cut it short on the hour mark.
CM: Cheickou Kouyate - 7
Another having a strong outing until a nasty-looking injury ended his evening. Has been left a major doubt for the rest of the tournament.
CM: Nampalys Mendy - 6
The Leicester City man looked solid in midfield without providing any real quality.
CM: Idrissa Gueye - 6
Dilligent and energetic without any real quality. A microcosm of the entire game.
RW: Ismaila Sarr - 8
By far the most potent attacker on the pitch, the Watford man gave Dumfries and De Ligt a torturous evening on the Dutch right side of defence.
ST: Boulaye Dia - 6
Looked bright and worked hard, but lacked any real cutting edge.
LW: Krepin Diatta - 7
Dovetailed well with Sarr on the opposite flank, but like most on the pitch lacked any real quality in front of goal.
Ismail Jakobs - 5
Wasted a promising set piece with a useless short corner, and did little else of note upon coming on.
Bamba Dieng - 5
Had no impact on the game.
Pape Gueye - 6
Looked a threat from range and stung the palms of Noppert upon coming on.
Nikolas Jackson - 5
Came on for his debut in a tricky situation, and couldn’t have an impact on the result.