A comfortable, if somewhat underwhelming, 2-0 victory for Netherlands against Wales on Wednesday night was overshadowed by a brief injury concern surrounding Robin van Persie.
Van Persie played a pivotal rule in Arjen Robben’s opening goal in Amsterdam but had been withdrawn from the fray with a slight groin problem long before Jeremain Lens completed the scoring 15 minutes from time, as a young Wales side acquitted themselves valiantly to keep the scoreline relatively close.
The Dutch subsequently insisted that there were no serious concerns surrounding Van Persie, but his situation will nevertheless be monitored closely with just eight days until the World Cup.
Chris Coleman's side did not create many chances over the 90 minutes, with Jermaine Easter forcing one decent stop from Jasper Cillessen late on, but then neither really did Van Gaal's, with the Manchester United manager-elect opting for a relatively untested 4-4-2 diamond formation as he continues to search for his side's best tactical setup ahead of forthcoming events in Brazil.
That structural uncertainty seemed to affect the home side, as they struggled to create many clear-cut chances despite the relative lack of pedigree of their opponents, who were also without Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey.
"It wasn't spectacular," Robben acknowledged, per The Associated Press. "We have to do much better in possession.
"We are making wrong choices too often and are finding it difficult to reach the free man up front."
While Bale was missing, it was a former Real player who ultimately opened the scoring, however, after 32 minutes. Robben had already created—and missed—a couple of half-chances before finally breaking the deadlock, finding himself in the right place at the right time to sweep home in fortuitous circumstances.
Van Persie created the goal, the forward getting free down the left and firing a hard and low shot from an acute angle, one that goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey could only block away with his knee. The ball ricocheted away and eventually fell perfectly for Robben, who made no mistake in lashing home from six yards out.
In the second half, Robben—undoubtedly the game's standout player—eventually turned provider to complete the night's scoring. It was a rare example of Wales' defence being torn apart, as Wesley Sneijder released Robben from deep to run clear of his defender down the right.
Wales, who had issues with their offside trap all night, were caught out and could not catch up to Robben, who then produced a pinpoint low cross for Lens to sweep home.
Prior to that, however, had been the key moment of the night for Van Gaal and the Dutch. Van Persie had been active and influential in the first half, but he seemed to be limping down the tunnel at half-time and did not return with his team-mates for the second period.
As one of just two changes made at half-time, it remains to be seen whether Van Gaal's hand was forced or that was the plan all along.
In the closing minutes, as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came on and Coleman continued to introduce younger and younger players to his side, Netherlands threatened to add an extra gloss to proceedings with a third goal.
But Wales held on, with the likes of Emyr Huws and debutant George Williams even showing tantalising glimpses of their own potential with some neat touches in and around the opposition box.
Those moments did not produce tangible rewards, but Coleman's side will hold their heads high, while still knowing that they have a number of areas to work on.
"We’re disappointed to lose any game but the manner we performed today against a top team was no disgrace at all," Wales' captain, Joe Allen, told the BBC. "I thought in the first half in particular we matched them.
"It was unfortunate how we conceded the [first] goal, a little unlucky."
The Dutch, of course, will worry little about the scoreline. The fitness of Van Persie will now be the primary concern, while Van Gaal will still be pondering his tactical options with the World Cup opener against Spain just nine days away.
Netherlands kick off their World Cup campaign against Spain on June 13. Wales' next scheduled game, meanwhile, is away to Andorra on September 9 as qualifying for the 2016 European Championships gets underway.
All quotes taken from BBC Wales' live match broadcast unless otherwise stated.
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