The Netherlands and Ecuador shared points in their second World Cup match, with the South American underdogs looking the more dangerous throughout their 1-1 draw.
The result on Friday means that hosts Qatar are the first team to be knocked out of the tournament. Senegal beat Qatar 3-1 earlier in the other Group A match of the day.
Cody Gakpo, the PSV Eindhoven forward who has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United, put the Netherlands in front with a superb strike in the sixth minute at the Al Khalifa International Stadium.
But with a large and vociferous support behind them, Ecuador fought back with such ferocity that the Dutch were rattled – and an Ecuador goal disallowed just before half-time gave an indication of the one-way traffic which was to follow in the second half.
Minutes into the second period, Enner Valencia became this World Cup’s highest goal scorer – so far – with a goal in the 49th minute. It was the captain’s third goal of the campaign after his brace in his country’s opening win over Qatar.
With the Netherlands and Ecuador now both on four points in Group A, followed by Senegal with three, Qatar cannot now qualify for the knock-out stages as they stand at the bottom of the table with zero points ahead of their last match against the Dutch side.
Very few would have expected the hosts to get out of the group, but they will be disappointed to go into the last group game with nothing on the line.
Ecuador could even have won this game, with Gonzalo Plata crashing a shot off the crossbar just before the hour mark. La Tri put in 23 crosses to the Netherlands’ seven in a sign that if anyone was about to net a winner, it wasn’t going to be the Dutch.
An encouraging evening for Ecuador was marred by the sight of Valencia coming off on a stretcher late on and then sitting with ice around his right knee, and they will hope their all-time top scorer can recover quickly.
Ecuador play Senegal in the last round of their group matches on Tuesday, while the Netherlands face Qatar, knowing a draw is all they need to guarantee their place in the round of 16.