Cody Gakpo and Enner Valencia continued their goal scoring for Netherlands and Ecuador in a battle for first-place on Friday. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw as Gakpo scored the opening goal for the Dutch and Valencia provided the equalizer in the second half. After both teams won their first group stage matches, the puzzle is incomplete for group A with the two front runners in both Netherlands and Ecuador with four points and Senegal lurking just behind with three.
In their previous match against Senegal, The Netherlands needed 85 minutes to produce a goal and ultimately defeated Senegal 2-0 as Gakpo provided the game winner. Netherlands got off to a dream start against Ecuador though, with Gakpo aiding the Dutch once more with the opening goal in the sixth minute.
The quick start was a stark difference for the Netherlands, but the quick momentum was stopped as Ecuador played their way back into the game immediately following the opening goal. Ecuador pressed centrally to intercept Netherlands passes in an effort to counter. The result was more time spent in the Netherlands half, and set pieces in dangerous spaces, with a near goal at the and of the half that was ruled offside. The two teams were level in shots on target with one each, but Ecuador led in total shots with five compared to just the one by Netherlands at halftime.
Ecuador made quick work of turning the momentum they carried towards the end of the first half into results after the break. The group continued to work in a central press and generated a turnover. Pervis Estupiñán got on the end of a ball and continued his run into the box. The initial shot was stopped, but Valencia timed a central run to insure the ball was into the back of the net.
The equalizer came just minutes into the second half, and the goal was Valencia's third of the tournament. The team continued to clog the midfield and stifle any meaningful attack by the Netherlands -- who had no answers on offense. The Dutch side ended the game with two total shots compared to 15 by Ecuador.
The 1-1 draw doesn't define a clear front runner in Group A, but the result does eliminate tournament hosts Qatar. Group A will conclude on Tuesday November 29 as Ecuador face Senegal and Qatar play Netherlands.