The twentieth round of Eredivisie action got underway on Friday evening in Tilburg where hosts Willem II left it late before shading out visitors, Sparta Rotterdam in an enthralling five-goal contest.

Erwin van de Looi’s men came into this encounter in search of not only their first points of the New Year after suffering successive defeats since the resumption of play in the Netherlands following the winter break, but also their first goal and, when the drought finally came to an end eighteen minutes into the match it was their top scorer, Spanish marksman, Fran Sol who headed the hosts into the ascendancy with his eighth of the campaign.

Fresh from squeezing past second tier outfit, Volendam in the quarter finals of the KNVB Beker, Alex Pastoor’s men looked progressively weary as the game wore on having been taken to extra time and penalties on Tuesday evening before eventually booking their place in the final four of the competition and almost fell further behind when Jordy Croux hit the bar shortly thereafter. But, having rode their luck, the visitors did find an equaliser three minutes after falling behind through Ajax loanee, Zakaria El Azzouzi only to see Darryl Lachman restore the hosts advantage on the stroke of half time.

The visitors clawed their way back onto level terms with twenty one minutes left to play through a well-placed free kick from Thomas Verhaar – who netted his second goal in as many games after also finding the back of the net on Tuesday evening, and looked to have secured a valuable point before substitute, Thom Haye popped up three minutes into added time to snatch all three points for the hosts.

Saturday’s Eredivisie action began at De Adelaarshorst where FC Utrecht put the embarrassment of their shock midweek cup exit at the hands of second tier outfit, SC Cambuur by taking all three points from their trip to Deventer.

Meanwhile, Go Ahead Eagles continue to find it difficult to gain traction at the wrong end of the table and slipped back to the foot of the Eredivisie standings when home centre half, Xandro Schenk inadvertently deflected Andreas Ludwig’s left wing cross into his own net just after the half hour mark.

Things went from bad to worse for Hans de Koning’s men as they chased in vain for an equaliser in the second half – Darren Maatsen being given his marching orders by referee, Edwin van de Graaf just after the hour mark following an altercation with visiting full back, Mark van der Maarel – who, despite having brought down the 25-year-old substitute in clumsy fashion, only received a yellow card in turn from the official piling the pressure on de Koning whose side now lie three points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Image result for heracles psv

Elsewhere on Saturday evening, back-to-back champions, PSV Eindhoven continued to tenaciously hang on to the coattails of Ajax and league leaders, Feyenoord – taking all three points from a potentially tricky trip to Almelo.

However, PSV’s third straight victory of 2017 wasn’t all plain sailing for Phillip Cocu’s men who handed hosts, Heracles an early opportunity to take the lead when Samuel Armenteros was brought down in the area by a reckless challenge from PSV’s German centre half, Daniel Schwaab with just ten minutes on the clock – leaving referee, Kevin Blom to point to the spot from which the Swedish marksmen saw his effort saved by Dutch international, Jeroen Zoet.

Having ridden their luck in the early stages of the first half, it was the reigning champions who hit the front five minutes into the second – Andres Guardado slipping in Jetro Willems on the left whose pinpoint low cross found Bart Ramselaar hovering around the penalty spot with time and space to beat home ‘keeper, Bram Castro who, despite getting a hand to the 20-year-old forward’s effort, failed to prevent his side slipping behind.

Despite having seen his spot kick saved by Zoet in the early exchanges, Armenteros made amends sixteen minutes from time when the Swede finished a pinpoint right wing ball from Brandley Kuwas with a well taken left footed volley that left the PSV ‘keeper rooted to the spot.

But, it wasn’t enough to secure a point for John Stegeman’s side who slipped to their third straight defeat since the turn of the year when Davy Propper’s deflected effort from just outside the area deceived Castro three minutes from time.

Saturday’s Eredivisie action was concluded in Kerkrade where struggling Roda JC claimed three vital points and climbed off the bottom of the table by hitting fellow strugglers Excelsior for four at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion.

Prior to this success, you had to go all the way back to the reverse fixture between the two sides in mid-October for the last victory to be posted by Yannis Anastasiou’s side whose cause was aided by the eighteenth minute dismissal of Jurgen Mattheij who was shown a straight red card by referee, Serdar Gozubuyuk for blocking Mitchel Paulissen when the Roda forward was put clean through on goal by virtue of the visiting centre half losing his footing.

Mitchell van der Gaag’s men were no sooner a man down than they found themselves a goal down as well – Dani Schahin the beneficiary of a well worked free kick routine from the resultant set piece as the 27-year-old German received a quick tap from Adil Auassar before breaking away unchecked by a static Excelsior rear guard to rifle the ball past Warner Hahn and give the cellar-dwellers the lead with nineteen minutes on the clock.

The hosts would go in at the break two goals to the good when Paulissen nodded home a perfectly weighted Mikhail Rosheuvel cross from the right at the back post to double their advantage in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

Anastasiou’s men have struggled to find the back of the net all season and had notched just eight goals in the league coming into the encounter while shipping in twenty five in the process.

However, there was little evidence of the Kerkrade-based outfit’s goal scoring deficiencies here as the home side made it three through Greek forward, Athanasios Papazoglou who side-footed home a perfectly placed Abdul Ajagun cross from the right just after the hour mark before Paulissen made it four as the hosts ran riot three minutes later to round off an outstanding personal performance from the 23-year-old Dutchman and ultimately put the seal on a crucial victory in Roda’s battle to avoid the drop.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway at the Abe Lenstra Stadion where the Derby van het Noorden between hosts, Heerenveen and local rivals, Groningen ended in an anti-climactic goalless draw.

Image result for AFC Ajax 3-0 ADO Den Haag

Goals however, were not in short supply in Amsterdam where Ajax hit hapless ADO Den Haag for three as Peter Bosz’s men kept league leaders, Feyenoord in sight with their third straight league victory of 2017.

The hosts wasted little time in putting their struggling visitors to the sword – Kasper Dolberg putting Hakim Ziyech through on goal with a defence splitting pass on the edge of the visitor’s area allowing the Moroccan to slide the ball past the exposed Ernestas Setkus in the ADO net before the talented young Dane rattled Setkus’ right hand upright a couple of minutes later.

With Nick Viergever having tested the durability of the Lithuanian international’s crossbar just moments earlier, the Lancers eventually doubled their advantage eleven minutes before the break – Lasse Schone coming up with another contender for goal of the season for the second week in succession – converting a perfectly placed free kick from well outside the area.

The visitors – who were missing the attacking talents of both Gervane Kastaneer and Japaese international, Mike Havenaar, never looked like threatening to make a game of what became an extremely one-sided contest and should have conceded a third six minutes after half time but for the bar to once again come to the rescue of Zeljko Petrovic’s men- this time denying a superb bicycle kick from Dolberg.

But the Danish starlet wasn’t to be denied his goal and the 19-year-old finally got on the score sheet fourteen minutes from time – tapping in at the back post following a near post flick from home skipper, Davy Klaassen who beat Tom Trybull to a Ziyech corner from the left to round off a commanding display that took Peter Bosz’s side temporarily within two points of league leaders, Feyenoord ahead of their bitter rival’s meeting with NEC Nijmegen later on Sunday afternoon.

At the same time, Vitesse Arnhem followed up their cup success against Feyenoord on Thursday evening by seeing off fellow KNVB Beker semi-finalists, AZ Alkmaar at the GelreDome.

But it was the visitors who came out of the blocks first – Ben Rienstra rattling Eloy Room’s crossbar with just six minutes gone. However, instead of galvanising John van den Brom’s men it instead lit a fire under Henk Fraser’s charges who hit the front four minutes later – Chelsea loanee, Lewis Baker beating Sergio Rochet with a dipping drive from just outside the area with ten minutes on the clock.

If AZ’s Uruguayan stopper might have done better with Baker’s opener than he should certainly have prevented the host’s second – Baker’s fellow loanee from Stamford Bridge, Nathan capitalising on the visiting ‘keeper’s indecisiveness in dealing with a long bouncing ball out of defence from Guram Kashia to double the home side’s advantage six minutes after the resumption.

John van den Brom’s men did pull themselves back into the contest in the 64th minute when Kashia inexplicably headed the ball into his own net from a yard out after a superb point-blank save from Room had denied substitute, Levi Garcia what had seemed a certain goal but Fraser’s side held on for a victory which maintained the Arnhem-based outfit’s push for a UEFA Europa League playoff place.

Elsewhere, ten-man FC Twente came away with all three points from their trip to relegation-threatened, PEC Zwolle.

Rene Hake’s men caught their hosts cold in the early stages – Dylan Seys’ deflected effort putting the visitors into the ascendancy with just eight minutes gone at the MAC3PARK Stadion.

But the hosts – buoyed by recording their first win of 2017 last time out against fellow strugglers, ADO Den Haag, were back on level terms just after the half hour mark – Ajax loanee, Queensy Menig firing home from just inside the area after being teed up by Kingsley Ehizibue.

However, despite Twente’s Manchester City loanee, Bersant Celina being given his marching orders by referee, Martin van den Kerkhof early in the second half, Ron Jans’ side failed to come away with anything to aid their battle against the drop – Oussama Assaidi capitalising on a poor clearance from Mickey van der Hart ten minutes into the second half to chip a perfectly placed lob over the Zwolle ‘keeper’s head and into the back of the net, bagging the undermanned visitor’s an unlikely away win.

The twentieth round of Eredivisie action was brought to a close at De Kuip where league leaders, Feyenoord responded to their advantage at the top of the standings having temporally been cut to two points by putting four past visiting, NEC Nijmegen to end the weekend with their five point lead intact.

Last year’s KNVB Beker winners – who suffered a shock cup exit at the hands of Vitesse Arnhem in midweek at the quarter final stage of this season’s competition, were quick to put the disappointment of Thursday evening behind them – Eljero Elia’s well-placed ball from the left finding Watford loanee, Steven Berghuis with time and space aplenty to slam a perfectly placed half volley past visiting ‘keeper, Joris Delle on the half hour mark.

The hosts doubled their advantage on the stroke of half time thanks to a smart turn and finish from Elia who beat Delle from just inside the area with a low drive from his weaker right foot – despite having tweaked his hamstring just moments earlier, following a neat give-and-go between Feyenoord skipper, Dirk Kuyt and Nicolai Jorgensen.

The home side could and should have made it three with eighteen minutes to play but, despite being found unmarked in the box by a perfectly placed Bilal Basacikoglu cross from the right, Jens Toornstra’s headed effort came back off Delle’s crossbar.

However, it would ultimately prove to be only a temporary reprieve for Peter Hyballa’s men whose rear guard was breached twice in the final few minutes – substitute, Bart Nieuwkoop finding Jorgensen with a pinpoint pass to tee up a simple finish from point blank range for the Danish marksman as the visiting defence turned to dust three minutes from time before Feyenoord’s top scorer added his second of the evening and eighteenth in all competitions in the final seconds of normal time – tapping in from a few yards out after Delle had been beaten to the ball by the head of the ever-industrious Basacikoglu.

Results: Week 20

Willem II 3-2 Sparta Rotterdam

Go Ahead Eagles 0-1 FC Utrecht

Heracles 1-2 PSV Eindhoven

Roda JC 4-0 Excelsior

SC Heerenveen 0-0 FC Groningen

AFC Ajax 3-0 ADO Den Haag

Vitesse Arnhem 2-1 AZ Alkmaar

PEC Zwolle 1-2 FC Twente

Feyenoord 4-0 NEC Nijmegen


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