In a weekend where PSV suffered a slight setback and Ajax bounced back, Steven Davies is on hand to describe all the action from round four of Eredivisie season.
This weekend got underway on Friday night at the GelreDome in Arnhem where two sides with contrasting starts to the season went head to head.
Last season’s recipient of the Rinus Michels Award – an honour which recognises the Coach of the Year in the Netherlands – Erik ten Hag, has seen his Utrecht side emulate the sort of performances that landed him the prestigious award during the opening three weeks of the season but lack the points haul to go with them – having only posted a single point from a possible nine thus far.
By sharp contrast, new Vitesse coach, Henk Fraser’s side have hit the ground running in 2016/17 – recording six points from a possible nine and it came as little surprise when the Arnhem based outfit hit the front shortly before the half hour mark through Ricky van Wolfswinkel – the 27-year-old finding an abundance of time and space inside the Utrecht box to latch onto a square ball from Milot Rashica and notch his third goal in four games since returning to the club where his career began.
Having been second best for the majority of the first period, the Utrecht players began the second stanza on the front foot and found a way back into the contest on 68 minutes when a shot from just outside the area was parried by Vitesse stopper, Eloi Room only for the ball to fall perfectly for Giovanni Troupee whose lofted cross across the face of the home side’s goal was met by the head of Utrecht’s talismanic forward, Sebastien Haller – the Frenchman making no mistake from close range to earn the visitors a share of the spoils.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action began in Tilburg with a stalemate at the Koning Willem II Stadion where Erwin van de Looi’s, Willem II arrived at their meeting with draw specialists Roda JC off the back of a famous away win at the Amsterdam ArenA but failed to repeat the feat in front of their own fans.
A lone strike by Swede, Sam Larsson was enough to secure all three points for Heerenveen against struggling PEC Zwolle at the Abe Lenstra Stadion and in the process record the first victory of the Jurgen Streppel era in Friesland.
Meanwhile, things continue to look grim for Ron Jans and his men, who not only fell to their third straight defeat of the season but also to the bottom of the Eredivisie standings.
By sharp contrast, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s, Feyenoord entered Saturday evening’s Rotterdam derby with Excelsior with a perfect nine points from nine from the opening three weeks of the season, sparking hopes of a first Eredvisie crown since Leo Beenhakker guided the Rotterdam giants to the league title in 1999.
Yet, in the intervening years since that success, Feyenoord have tended to falter when the business end of the season rolls around so there will have been more than a few supporters who will not have been surprised when, against the run of play, Stanley Elbers latched on to a square ball from Nigel Hasselbaink to slot past Aussie ‘keeper, Brad Jones and put Mitchell van der Gaag’s men one nil up and silence the majority of the 47,000 crowd at De Kuip with 26 minutes on the clock.
It is fair to say that, at 36 years of age, Feyenoord skipper Dirk Kuyt has enjoyed somewhat of an Indian summer in terms of goal scoring since his return to De Kuip at the beginning of last season. Kuyt, who netted an impressive 23 times in his first season back in Rotterdam, was instrumental in steadying the ship when the team, having started 2015/16 promisingly, hit choppy waters around the turn of the year and embarked on a wretched run of defeats which derailed the club’s early season title ambitions by the end of January but didn’t see the club finish the season without silverware – having collected the KNVB Beker with a win over FC Utrecht in April and the former Dutch international was on hand once again when, after latching onto a flick by Danish target man, Nicolai Jorgensen, Kuyt unleashed a sweet half volley to drag Feyenoord back on level terms just before the half time interval.
Then, Just before the hour mark, Kuyt was at it again – this time killing a long diagonal pass from sub, Jan-Arie van der Heijden stone dead on his chest at the top of the Excelsior box before stroking the ball past Tom Muyters to put the hosts into the ascendancy .
Two minutes later, Steven Berghuis made it three when, after receiving the ball just inside the Excelsior area from Karim El Ahmadi, the Watford loanee curled a well-placed finish into the top right hand corner of Muyter’s net.
The hosts rounded out what, in the end, was a comfortable victory when Jens Toornstra intercepted a poorly weighted back pass before rounding the ‘keeper to make it four with 65 minutes on the clock – securing the home side’s fourth straight win of the season and their place at the summit of the Eredivisie standings.
The late kick off came at De Grolsch Veste in Enschede where Rene Hake’s Twente, having been written off by many just a couple of weeks ago after staving off both bankruptcy and demotion over the summer months, recorded their second victory in as many games – dispatching newly promoted Sparta Rotterdam 3-1.
It what could well be his final game in front of the Enschede faithful, talismanic playmaker, Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring for the home side just before the quarter hour before Yaw Yeboah doubled the home side’s advantage with a spectacular strike from just outside the area on 36 minutes.
Yet the visitors from Rotterdam came into this game on a run of two successive victories and Alex Pastoor’s men rattled the fragile confidence of the home side when Twente glovesman, Nick Marsman brought down Aussie, Craig Goodwin resulting in referee, Reinold Wiedemeijer pointing to the spot from which Belgian marksman, Loris Brogno made no mistake – netting his fourth goal in as many games.
However, the final word fittingly went to Ziyech who, having turned in a man of the match display, sealed the home side’s second win in as many weeks just before the hour mark when, having intercepted a wayward pass out of the Sparta defence, the in-demand Moroccan international, nipped behind the visitor’s backline and slotted the ball past Roy Kortsmit before later departing to a hero’s reception from the adoring home crowd when he was replaced by Tim Holscher in the first minute of stoppage time.
Sunday’s Eredivisie action began at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven where reigning champions, PSV were surprisingly held to a goalless draw by Ernest Faber’s struggling Groningen who arrived in Eindhoven without a point to their name. The result ensured that Feyenoord would sit two points clear at the top of the Eredivisie standings after the fourth weekend of action and was made all the more remarkable given the fact that the visitors were forced to play with ten men for a vast portion of the match after 19-year-old defensive midfielder, Juninho Bacuna was sent off for his second bookable offence with 32 minutes on the clock. The best opportunity in an extremely one-sided affair came when the hosts received a penalty after Luciano Narsingh was brought down in the Groningen area shortly before the half time break. However, the normally reliable Luuk de Jong saw his spot kick saved by Groningen glovesman, Sergio Padt.
Like PSV, Zeljko Petrovic’s surprise package, ADO Den Haag came into their meeting with Heracles having collected three wins from the opening three matches of the season. Yet they would be denied a fourth successive victory by John Stegeman’s side who took the lead at the Kyocera Stadion through German defender, Robin Gosens with 18 minutes on the clock – thanks in no small part to the poor handling of ADO ‘keeper, Ernestas Setkus.
In season’s gone by this was the sort of result that ADO have been prone to let slip entirely, yet their encouraging start to the 2016/17 campaign has seen newfound resilience and belief take root on both the pitch and in the stands and, while they could not make it four wins from four outings, the home side did manage to level the score when, shortly before the half hour mark, Japanese international striker, Mike Havenaar buried a well taken left footed strike on the run after latching onto a Gervane Kastaneer flick on.
All eyes turned to De Adelaarshorst on Sunday lunchtime where under fire Peter Bosz brought his struggling Ajax side to face newly promoted, Go Ahead Eagles.
After enduring a tumultuous week that began with a defeat at home to Willem II followed by a humiliating exit from the final qualifying phase of the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Russian under dogs, FC Rostov, many saw the trip to Deventer as another potential banana skin for de Godenzonen who, having seen Dutch interntional ‘keeper Jasper Cillessen depart for Barcelona handed Cameroonian, Andre Onana only his second taste of first team action – the 20-yearold stopper’s inclusion being one of numerous changes to a backline that had been torn to shreds in midweek.
In front of a vociferous home crowd, Hans de Koning’s Eagles began on the front foot and with twenty minutes on the clock Columbian defender, Davinson Sanchez appeared to clip the heels of PSV loanee, Marcel Ritzmaier as the Austrian midfielder scampered into the Ajax area leaving referee, Pol van Boekel little option but to point to the spot.
Like his team mates, last season’s goal machine, Leon de Kogel has struggled to repeat the sort of prowess in front of goal that saw the 24-year-old marksman bag 27 goals as he fired the Eagles to promotion via the promotion/ relegation playoffs last term and the striker’s lack of confidence was in evidence here as he saw his spot kick saved by Onana – an event that ultimately proved to be the turning point of the game.
Having seemingly got out of jail thanks to Onana’s heroics, the visitors took the game by the scruff of the neck – Ajax’s inspirational skipper, Davy Klaassen giving Peter Bosz’s side the lead when his shot from just outside the area took a nick off the heels of Sander Fischer to deceive Theo Zwarthoed in the home net just minutes later.
Chelsea loanee, Bertrand Traore was one of the only players in an Ajax shirt to emerge from the midweek trip to Russia with a performance to be proud of and the mercurial Burkina Faso international gave left back, Kenny Teijsse a torrid time throughout the contest – his trickery winning the visitors a penalty from which Klaassen made no mistake to double de Godenzonen’s advantage heading into the half time interval.
The game was effectively over just after the hour mark when Nemanja Gudelj floated a perfectly placed free kick over the home side’s wall to leave Zwarthoed once more rooted to the spot and, in the process, earn Peter Bosz a stay of execution heading into the international break.
The fourth round of Eredivisie action was concluded at the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar where AZ dispatched ten-man NEC Nijmegen by two goals to nil. John van den Brom’s side took the lead just before the half time interval through a diving header by 20-year-old attacking midfielder, Dabney dos Santos and things went from bad to worse for Peter Hyballa’s men when German midfielder, Julian von Haacke received a second yellow card from referee, Kevin Blom with more than half an hour still to play before Iranian international, Alireza Jahanbakhsh put the undermanned visitors out of their misery following a swift AZ counter attack with 17 minutes remaining.
Vitesse Arnhem 1-1 FC Utrecht
Willem II 0-0 Roda JC
SC Heerenveen 1-0 PEC Zwolle
Feyenoord 4-1 Excelsior
FC Twente 3-1 Sparta Rotterdam
PSV Eindhoven 0-0 Groningen
ADO Den Haag 1-1 Heracles
Go Ahead Eagles 0-3 AFC Ajax
AZ Alkmaar 2-0 NEC Nijmegen
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