Advantage Feyenoord in the title race – Steven Davies is on hand to describe all the action from round six of Eredivisie season.
The sixth week of play in the Eredivisie got underway at the Stadion Galgenwaard where two of the surprise early season strugglers came face to face as Utrecht – with three points and no wins from their first five games took on Ernest Faber’s struggling Groningen, who themselves entered this Friday evening fixture second off bottom with just two points and similarly without a win in their first five outings of the 2016/17 campaign.
A few months in football can seem like a lifetime – not least for Erik ten Hag, whose exploits last term resulted in an unsuccessful appearance in the final of the KNVB Beker, a fifth place finish and the Rinus Michels Award – an honour which recognises the Coach of the Year in the Netherlands. Yet few could have predicted just how quickly things would unravel for the Utrecht coach.
Despite arriving relatively early in the campaign, both sides understood the importance of collecting three points against an opponent facing a similar plight. Yet, it was the visitors who began the brighter – looking dangerous on the counter attack throughout the match and creating goal scoring opportunities with alarming regularity.
Unsurprisingly, it was Groningen who hit the lead with just 13 minutes on the clock when live wire attacking midfielder, Oussama Idrissi intercepted a misplaced back pass by Ramon Leeuwin and, having found himself one on one with Menno Koch, promptly turned the Utrecht defender inside out before slotting the ball past home ‘keeper, Robbin Ruiter.
Idrissi – easily the best player on the park, was on the scoresheet again as the clock ticked towards the half time break – the 20-year-old’s persistence being rewarded when, following a succession of goal scoring attempts that had been repeatedly blocked by the scrambling Utrecht rear guard, the Dutch starlet glided past three players before bending in an unstoppable drive into the top left hand corner of Ruiter’s net.
Despite Groningen’s dominance, the second stanza began optimistically for the home side and on the hour mark former Groningen player, Richairo Zivkovic found himself in space following a succession of quick fire passes on the edge of the visitor’s area and pulled Erik ten Hag’s men back into a contest that had seemed all but over just prior to the half time interval.
However, just six minutes later the contest was over as former Ajax and Fulham striker, Danny Hoesen latched onto a perfectly weighted ball from star man, Idrissi to break the home side’s offside trap and restore the visitor’s two goal advantage.
Things went from bad to worse as, with the clock winding down, Erik ten Hag’s men threw progressively more and more caution to the wind – substitute, Tom van Weert making it four at the second time of asking after Ruiter had fumbled the former Excelsior forward’s initial near post effort with ten minutes remaining before Hoesen added a fifth in stoppage time to give Ernest Faber’s men their first win of the campaign at the sixth time of asking.
Meanwhile, for Ten Hag and Utrecht, the wait for a first win of the season goes on.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action got underway at De Grolsch Veste in Enschede where FC Twente surprised their visitors from The Hague early on with Manchester City loanee, Enes Unal giving Rene Hake’s men a 13th minute lead with a spectacular free kick from well outside the area which the Turkish striker then doubled with a neat headed finish ten minutes before half time.
Few gave Rene Hake’s side a prayer following a tumultuous summer that had seen the club demoted, seriously consider plying their trade in the lower reaches of German football and very nearly cease to exist before a successful appeal against their demotion allowed them to begin the 2016/17 campaign as an Eredivisie outfit after all. Add to that the recent departure of talismanic playmaker, Hakim Ziyech to Ajax and the odds seemed to be well and truly stacked against the Enschede outfit.
Yet, despite starting the season with two straight defeats, Twente have hit their stride – coming into this meeting with ADO Den Haag with two wins from their last three games thanks in no small part to a profitable relationship with the blue half of Manchester – Kosovar forward, Bersant Celina following fellow Manchester City loanee, Unal onto the scoresheet on 54 minutes with his second goal in as many games.
A diving header from Kevin Jansen briefly reduced the arrears with two minutes remaining for the visitors who, having initially won their first three games of the season, are now without a win in their last three and a tough evening for Zeljko Petrovic’s men was concluded when South African midfielder, Kamohelo Mokotjo put the icing on a convincing victory for Twente with the host’s fourth of the evening in the final minute – tucking in the rebound after substitute, Jari Oosterwijk’s shot had rattled the post.
Next, the action shifted to the GelreDome in Arnhem where Henk Fraser’s, Vitesse played host to a Go Ahead Eagles side buoyed by the confidence of having recorded their first win of the season at the expense of Roda the previous week.
Following a goalless first period largely dominated by the hosts, the visitor’s impressive rear guard action was undone by a lack of pace when Moroccan substitute, Adnane Tighadouini showed right back, Lars Lambooij a clean pair of heels down the left before sending in a would-be cross that referee, Jochem Kamphuis harshly adjudged to have been handled by centre half, Sander Fischer and awarded a penalty – Ricky van Wolfswinkel making no mistake from the spot.
Any thoughts of an Eagles comeback were dashed just three minutes later when another substitute – Mitchell van Bergen, got free down the right and squared for Chelsea loanee, Lewis Baker who made sure of the points by driving the ball into the top left hand corner of Theo Zwarthoed’s net from just inside the area.
At the same time, Jurgen Streppel’s Heerenveen came out on top in a bad tempered affair at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion where hosts, Roda JC saw red twice while their visitors were also reduced to ten men.
When Swede, Sam Larsson fired the visitors into an eighth minute lead with a spectacular free kick from well outside the area there was little indication of the farcical scenes that were to ensue later in the half when first, Nigerian midfielder, Abdul Ajagun was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence just five minutes after receiving his first caution by referee, Bas Nijhuis before, just nine minutes later, Chris Kum received his second booking of the match leaving the home side down to nine men and the Roda faithful irate at Nijhuis and his assistants as they left the field.
With a two-man advantage as well as being a goal to the good, it came as little surprise when Jurgen Streppel’s men made their advantage tell – Henk Veerman doubling the visitors lead from close range on 68 minutes.
However, the drama wasn’t quite over, and when Manchester City loanee, Shay Facey picked up his second booking of the match with fifteen minutes remaining the visitors were reduced to ten men.
Yet the hosts never really looked like turning the game into a contest after having been reduced to nine men at the end of the first half and, when Arber Zeneli made it three in the 77th minute with his second goal of the season, any chances of an unlikely comeback were well and truly extinguished.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action was rounded off at the Koning Willem II Stadion in Tilburg where Willem II – winless in their last three matches, played host to Excelsior.
The hosts hit the front after only 6 minutes through a back post header from Spanish forward, Fran Sol but his strike wasn’t enough to secure all three points for Erwin van de Looi’s side – 24-year-old Moroccan, Hicham Faik earning Mitchell van der Gaag’s visitor’s a share of the spoils from a deflected free kick that deceived Willem II ‘keeper Kostas Lamprou with ten minutes remaining.
Sunday’s Eredivisie action began at Het Kasteel in Rotterdam where Sparta played host to NEC Nijmegen.
Alex Pastoor’s men have quickly acclimatised to life back in the Eredivisie following promotion last term and the home side were ahead on 17 minutes through a well-placed half volley from Thomas Verhaar.
Peter Hyballa’s visitors came into this contest on the back of two straight defeats and were looking to rediscover the early season form that saw the men from Nijmegen begin the campaign with a run of three games without defeat.
Despite losing an early goal, Hyballa’s men remained in the contest for the majority of the match until Ajax loanee, Zakaria El Azzouzi doubled the home side’s advantage from close range with 9 minutes remaining to send the newly promoted side into the UEFA Europa League playoff places.
There was little doubt as to the match of the weekend as unbeaten table toppers, Feyenoord – fresh from their stunning UEFA Europa League success over Manchester United on Thursday, put their 100% record on the line against reigning champions, PSV Eindhoven.
Despite coming into this top of the table encounter trailing their visitors by two points, Phillip Cocu’s men had the benefit of an additional two days rest following their UEFA Champions League defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening and had beaten Feyenoord in the most recent meeting between the two sides – PSV lifting the Johan Cruijff Schaal at the expense of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side on July 31st.
Predictably, given their respective mid-week exertions, it was the hosts who enjoyed the lion’s share in terms of both possession and chances in a goalless first half – Luciano Narsingh in particular, being denied a trio of guilt-edged opportunities thanks to a combination of a resolute Feyenoord rear guard and the reflexes of Australian ‘keeper, Brad Jones.
Yet the second period proved to be more of an even contest as the visitors began to show their teeth – Tonny Vilhena – the hero of Thursday night’s victory over Manchester United being denied a penalty just after the hour mark when it appeared his goal-bound effort was handled by a diving Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. However, much to the consternation of visiting coach, van Bronckhorst, the visitor’s appeals were waved away by referee, Kevin Blom.
Nevertheless, the league leaders weren’t to be denied and when another of the stars of Feyenoord’s mid-week European heroics, Eric Botteghin saw the ball land at his feet from an 82nd minute corner just outside the PSV box, the Brazilian centre half smashed the ball past Dutch international, Jeroen Zoet to put the visitors into the ascendancy.
Feyenoord’s Australian stopper, Brad Jones has been in excellent form since his summer arrival at De Kuip and, following a string of good saves throughout the contest, was again on hand – this time to deny a goal-bound header from Hector Moreno in the dying seconds to seal all three points for the men from Rotterdam and, in the process, a five point lead over their hosts in the Eredivisie standings.
As the final whistle sounded the jubilation was clear to see on the faces of everyone associated with the long suffering Rotterdam giants whose attention now turns to the defence of their KNVB Beker title when the cup holders entertain second tier outfit, FC Oss in the 1st round on Thursday evening.
At the same time, bottom placed PEC Zwolle welcomed AZ Alkmaar to the MAC3PARK Stadion with Ron Jans’ struggling side hopeful of recording their first win of the season against an AZ team who could only draw at home to Irish minnows, Dundalk in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening.
However, despite their poor showing in Europe, John van den Brom’s side came into this fixture on the back of three straight league wins and hit the front shortly before half time through Wout Weghorst’s close range finish. But the visitors only made sure of all three points with three minutes remaining – 18-year-old substitute, Guus Til adding the second of the afternoon for the men from Alkmaar.
The sixth round of matches came to a conclusion at the Polman Stadion in Almelo where Ajax, fresh from an, at times, unlikely away success at Panathinaikos in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening, took on Heracles.
The hosts came into the game with no wins in their last three matches and without a home win over their visitors from Amsterdam for more than half a century. By sharp contrast, Peter Bosz and his men arrived in Almelo on the back of three straight wins in all competitions – the former Heracles boss naming an unchanged side from the one that triumphed in Greece on his return to Almelo.
Following a goalless first period, it was the visitors who, having started slowly, gradually wrestled control of the game away from the hosts before the Heracles defence misjudged a Mitchell Dijks cross from the left, allowing the ball to bounce invitingly into the path of Davy Klaassen – the Ajax skipper rolling the ball past Heracles ‘keeper, Bram Castro to put the away side a goal to the good in the 66th minute with his fifth league goal in six games.
Any thoughts of a comeback by John Stegeman’s side were dispelled with fourteen minutes remaining when Nemanja Gudelj latched onto a through ball from goal scorer, Klaassen before curling the ball into the bottom left hand corner of Castro’s net to score his second league goal of the season and ensure that all three points were heading back to Amsterdam.
FC Utrecht 1-5 FC Groningen
FC Twente 4-1 ADO Den Haag
Vitesse 2-0 Go Ahead Eagles
Roda JC 0-3 SC Heerenveen
Willem II 1-1 Excelsior
Sparta Rotterdam 2-0 NEC Nijmegen
PEC Zwolle 0-2 AZ Alkmaar
PSV Eindhoven 0-1 Feyenoord
Heracles 0-2 AFC Ajax
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