Christian Eriksen scores on return as Dutch beat Denmark 4-2

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Welcome back.

Christian Eriksen scored moments after entering as a substitute for Denmark against the Netherlands on Saturday to make a dream return in his first international match since his cardiac arrest during the European Championship in June.

The Netherlands won the wide-open match 4-2 but the result of the friendly seemed almost irrelevant to the crowd at the stadium where Eriksen first rose to prominence for Ajax.

“To be back here is always beautiful,” Eriksen, speaking Dutch, told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “I had many beautiful years here.”

He said he still thinks often of the night he collapsed in Copenhagen against Finland.

“It’s part of me. It’s part of the world,” he said.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand enjoyed the comeback, too.

“It’s always a pleasure to see Christian Eriksen play football,” he said.

Eriksen, fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, got a pat on the back from Hjulmand, a handshake from Memphis Depay, and a standing ovation from much of the Johan Cruyff Arena as he trotted onto the pitch to make his return to international competition at the start of the second half.

Hjulmand said he went through some tactics with Eriksen before sending him on. Then he had a simple message: “I said, ‘Enjoy it and welcome back.’”

Just over two minutes later Eriksen got on the score sheet, firing home a powerful shot to cut the Dutch lead to 3-2 after a thrilling first half.

“I had goosebumps,” Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt said. “It’s great that he’s back, and how he scored and hit the post today showed his absolute class.”

The Dutch dominated before the break with goals from Steven Bergwijn, Nathan Ake and Depay.

Jannik Vestergaard’s 19th-minute header kept the Danes in touch.

Bergwijn opened the scoring in the 16th minute, rising to meet a Daley Blind cross from the left.

Vestergaard’s equalizer came three minutes later past stranded goalkeeper Mark Flekken, making his Netherlands debut.

Aké restored the Dutch lead in the 29th and Depay converted a 38th-minute penalty to give the Netherlands a two-goal cushion at halftime.

Eriksen’s powerful shot to cut the lead was his 37th international goal, matching Denmark great Michael Laudrup.

Bergwijn scored his second of the night after a powerful run out of midfield by Frenkie de Jong. The winger collected De Jong’s pass, cut inside from the left and curled a shot over Kasper Schmeichel. Bergwijn’s last four goals in all competitions have been scored against Schmeichel.

Still, Eriksen wasn’t done. He fired a long-range shot in the 74th that beat Flekken, but slammed into the post.

At fulltime he got a big hug from Netherlands defender Daley Blind, a former Ajax teammate who also has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Eriksen then walked alone to one corner of the ground to soak up plaudits from the Danish section of fans as his teammates also applauded.

“For the fans here, it was the perfect game,” De Ligt said.

Eriksen has resumed his playing career in the past few weeks at English Premier League club Brentford but only started on the bench after recently recovering from COVID-19.

“He’s back and has the best football in front of him,” Hjulmand said.

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