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Netherlands 3 Bulgaria 1: Propper double keeps World Cup hopes alive

Davy Propper scored a brace as Netherlands kept their World Cup qualification hopes alive with a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria in Amsterdam.

Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Propper, one of three players brought in by Dick Advocaat after Thursday's heavy defeat to France, scored his first international goal early on.

Captain Arjen Robben doubled Netherlands' advantage after the break, before Bulgaria's Georgi Kostadinov got the faintest of touches on Ivelin Popov's free-kick to ensure the hosts were made to work for victory.

Propper then headed in with 10 minutes remaining to secure a win that gave Netherlands some revenge after their 2-0 loss to Bulgaria in March, which proved to be the last straw prior to the sacking of former coach Danny Blind.

Netherlands move above Bulgaria into third in Group A, but still face a tough task to qualify, as Sweden – who defeated Belarus – sit three points clear of them with only two games to play.

The Oranje's hopes are further complicated by Sweden holding a much stronger goal difference. France are also three clear, but can extend that to six with a win at home to Luxembourg later on Sunday.

Bulgaria are four adrift of Sweden with their hopes of reaching Russia now faint at best.

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The hosts made a fast start to the match and moved in front in the seventh minute.

Daley Blind played a neat one-two with Vincent Janssen as part of a swift passing move and sent in an accurate cross from the left which the onrushing Propper slotted home from inside the six-yard box.

Bulgaria almost responded against the run of play when a deep right-wing cross from Strahil Popov found a back-pedalling Kostadinov, who stretched to send a good header bouncing off the post with home goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen beaten.

With Netherlands dominating possession, the visitors made a tactical change midway through the first half as Simeon Slavchev replaced Aleksandar Tsvetkov.

Janssen collected a pass from Propper and turned well to fire wide with a 25-yard effort, shortly before Bulgaria keeper Plamen Iliev made a simple save from another attempt from the Tottenham striker as the Oranje went into the break one up.

The Netherlands number nine produced a poor finish from another shooting opportunity after the break, with Propper again the creator. But Advocaat's men were on top and deservedly doubled their lead with 23 minutes remaining.

In a goal that was similar to their opener, Quincy Promes sent Blind clear down the left and another square cross from the Manchester United defender was converted, this time by a sliding Robben.

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Bulgaria had not registered a shot on target until they made a prompt response when an in-swinging free-kick from Ivelin Popov flew all the way into the far corner, with Kostadinov claiming he had got a touch on the way through.

With nerves fraying, Robben forced a save from Iliev, while Ivelin Popov forced Cillessen into action at the other end.

The decisive moment then arrived, with Promes twisting into space down the left and sending in a precise delivery for an unmarked Propper to head into the bottom corner.

With his first two international goals scored in a huge clash, man of the moment Propper was substituted to a generous ovation in the closing stages as Netherlands turned their attention to next month's crucial double-header against Belarus and Sweden.

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