Following an eventful transfer window for many clubs in the Dutch top flight, the Eredivisie resumed on Friday evening in The Hague where Vitesse Arnhem continued their push for a UEFA Europa League playoff place at the expense of their struggling hosts, ADO Den Haag – who suffered their fourth loss on the bounce despite coach, Zeljko Petrovic handing starts to new signings; Guyon Fernandez, Abdenasser El Khayati and Randy Wolters.

A pair of strikes either side of the half hour mark ultimately did the damage for the visitors at the Kyocera Stadion who took the lead through Adnane Tighadouini – the Moroccan curling the ball past home ‘keeper, Ernestas Setkus with 29 minutes on the clock before RIcky van Wolfswinkel broke the host’s offside trap to double the away side’s advantage two minutes later to secure a third win in a row in all competitions for Henk Fraser’s men who remain unbeaten since the turn of the year.

While ADO’a purchases from January’s bargain rail have yet to bear fruit, elsewhere, some shrewd winter recruitment has begun to pay dividends – not least in Deventer, where bottom-of-the-table, Go Ahead Eagles, at long last, recorded their first win on the road in the Eredivisie since returning to the top flight of Dutch football last summer at the expense of NEC Nijmegen at the Goffertstadion on Saturday evening.

Having taken just three points on their travels all season, Hans de Koning’s men arrived in Nijmegen three points adrift at the bottom of the standings following last week’s reversal at home to Utrecht.

However, the impressive displays of their winter reinforcements – especially the form of Pedro Chirivella and Elvis Manu who arrived in Deventer on loan from Liverpool and Brighton respectively, had given the struggling Eagles and their fans cause for optimism despite their precarious league position and it was the aforementioned Manu and another new arrival – Arsenal loanee, Daniel Crowley, who combined to fire the away side into the ascendancy with just twelve minutes on the clock – Crowley feeding Manu before the former Feyenoord forward powered his way past five would-be tacklers before firing the ball past an exposed Joris Delle in the Nijmegen goal.

Having shown glimpses of what they are capable of in their three outings since the turn of the year, the Eagles’ new recruits  at last appear to be ready to fire on all cylinders in the battle to retain Eredivisie status for the Deventer-based outfit and it was two more new arrivals who combined to double the visitor’s advantage thirteen minutes later – Jarchinio Antonia – who re-joined the club after parting ways with Groningen earlier in the campaign, running on to a perfectly weighted ball from Liverpool loanee, Chirivella before burning off Gregor Breinburg and flashing the ball past Delle.

Peter Hyballa’s side looked out of sorts for much of the contest but were handed a way back into the match just after the hour mark when referee, Bjorn Kuipers opted to turn down the away side’s appeals for a penalty following a coming together between Manu and Mikael Dyrestam and instead award the incredulous forward a second yellow card of the match after having picked up his first for petulantly kicking the ball away mid-way through the first half.

Despite playing the best part of half an hour with ten men, the visitors were scarcely troubled by their hosts whose eventual response from 18-year-old, Jay-Roy Grot in the second minute of added time came too little too late.

In spite of taking home all three points, Hans de Koning’s side continue to prop up the table by virtue of an inferior goal difference and now face a crucial fortnight with the outcome of back-to-back encounters with fellow strugglers, ADO  and Roda likely to decide their top flight future.

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Elsewhere on Saturday evening, back-to-back champions, PSV Eindhoven kept alive their fading title hopes by coming away with all three points from a potentially tricky trip to high-flying, AZ Alkmaar.

Phillip Cocu’s men arrived in Alkmaar eight points adrift of league leader’s, Feyenoord and three behind second placed, Ajax having taken maximum points since the turn of the year while the home side – who handed a debut to on-loan Dutch international ‘keeper, Tim Krul, came into this encounter eleven points further back but with an opportunity to leap-frog both Heerenveen and Vitesse into fourth place.

But it was the visitors who came out of the blocks first – Jetro Willems cutting in from the left and weaving his way through the AZ rear guard before slamming the ball past an exposed Krul to put the visitors a goal-to the-good with just 13 minutes on the clock before the injury-plagued Dutch international repeated the trick three minutes later to double the away side’s advantage.

However, John van den Brom’s men pulled themselves back into the contest just a minute later curtesy of Alireza Jahanbkhsh capitalising on a poor pass from Andres Guardado to break free down the right and set up Fred Friday for a simple finish from just inside the area.

The Mexican international would make amends four minutes before the break – floating in a perfectly weighted free kick for Luuk de Jong to head back across goal for an onrushing Gaston Pereiro to restore the visitor’s two-goal advantage.

Any chance that the home side may have harboured of taking something from this encounter took a severe blow when Stijn Wuytens received a second yellow card from referee, Serdar Gozubuyuk following a rash challenge on Luuk de Jong who then killed off the under-manned hosts with the away side’s fourth ten minutes from time – stabbing the ball past Krul from close range following a pinpoint cross from Chelsea loanee, Marco van Ginkel, despite Friday picking up his second of the evening for van den Brom’s side after out-muscling German centre half, Daniel Schwaab on the left five minutes later.

Meanwhile, ten-man Heracles came away with all three points from their meeting with Willem II in Tilburg.

The two sides came into this encounter separated by just one place and one point and were looking to record a victory that would put significant distance between themselves and the relegation dogfight below.

However, the odds seemed stacked against John Stegeman’s side who were reduced to ten men after just 21 minutes when referee, Allard Lindhout gave, Bram Castro his marching orders after the Heracles ‘keeper had brought down Watford loanee, Obbi Oulare in the area with Willem II’s new arrival through on goal.

The home side’s Spanish marksman, Fran Sol made no mistake from the resultant spot-kick – sending back-up ‘stopper, Renze Fij the wrong way, to put the hosts into the ascendancy and the reserve ‘keeper would keep his side in the contest – palming a Thom Haye free kick onto the bar just prior to the half time interval.

Despite being reduced to ten men, the away side would claw their way back into the contest through a spectacular long range strike from Peter van Ooijen just after the hour mark before remarkably taking the lead when Kristoffer Peterson prodded the ball past Kostas Lamprou from close range three minutes later.

Three minutes later, Robin Gosens was on hand to snatch a third from close range to ultimately seal all three points for the under-manned visitors – leaving home coach, Erwin van de Looi scratching his head in disbelief at the sight of his side’s remarkable capitulation.

The search for a first victory of 2017 continues for both, FC Groningen and relegation-threatened, Excelsior after the two played out a drab 1-1 draw on Saturday evening.

Following a goalless opening period at the Noordlease Stadion, Ernest Faber’s side broke the deadlock three minutes after the resumption – Mimoun Mahi firing the hosts into the ascendancy from the spot after referee, Edwin van de Graaf ruled that Milan Massop had pulled back Etienne Reijnen in the area.

However the 22-year-old’s ninth goal of the season wasn’t enough to secure all three points for the hosts who, having ridden their luck when Hicham Faik curled the ball onto Sergio Padt’s crossbar in the 66th minute, were eventually pegged back ten minutes from time – substitute, Anouar Hadouir unleashing a rasping strike from well outside the area that left Padt rooted to the spot.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway in Kerkrade where title-chasing, Ajax temporarily closed the gap to league leaders, Feyenoord to two points after eventually seeing off struggling Roda JC at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion.

Having bankrolled a slew of new signings during the January transfer window, Russian millionaire, Aleksei Korotaev took the opportunity to unveil new consultant, Nicolas Anelka and outline his intention of reaching the UFEA Champions League within five years after having assumed co-ownership of the Kerkrade-based outfit earlier in the week – piling the pressure on coach, Yannis Anastasiou to guide a side who had tasted success on just two occasions all season prior to the visit of Peter Bosz’s side, to Eredivisie safety.

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Following a goalless opening period, Ajax’s inspirational skipper, Davy Klaassen eventually broke the deadlock – netting his fourteenth goal of the season in all competitions eight minutes after the interval by squeezing the ball past home ‘keeper, Benjamin van Leer from just outside the box after being teed up by some strong hold-up play by Kasper Dolberg.

With first, Amin Younes and then substitute, Abdelhak Nouri rattling van Leer’s crossbar in the final quarter of an hour, Peter Bosz’s charges should have made the points safe long before the 23-year-old German added a second for the visitors three minutes into added time.

Elsewhere, despite being reduced to ten men, relegation-threatened, PEC Zwolle took the opportunity to leapfrog fellow strugglers, Sparta Rotterdam following a five-goal thriller at Het Kasteel on Sunday afternoon.

Ron Jans’ men should have taken the lead two minutes before the break but home ‘keeper, Roy Kortsmit managed to push a Danny Holla free kick onto his left hand upright to ensure that Alex Pastoor’s men went in at the interval on level terms.

However, the away side soon made their hosts pay following the resumption – Ajax loanee, Queensy Menig skipping around the exposed Kortsmit to put the hosts into the ascendency six minutes into the second half following a well-weighted through ball from another man on loan from Ajax – Django Warmerdam.

The visitors doubled their advantage eleven minutes later through another loanee – Birmingham City striker, Nicolai Brock-Madsen – who made no mistake when an incisive through ball from Holla found the Danish marksman with time and space aplenty to beat the helpless Kortsmit with his fourth of the season in all competitions.

Despite Bart Schenkeveld being given his marching orders by referee, Bas Nijhuis after picking up a second yellow card in the 84th minute, the points seemed safe when substitute, Erik Israelsson headed in a third for the visitors four minutes from time.

However, a late double from Mathias Pogba in added time left the visitors hanging on for dear life to a result that could ultimately prove crucial in both side’s battle to avoid the drop come the end of the season.

Meanwhile, despite turning in a far from vintage performance, league leaders, Feyenoord restored their five point cushion at the top of the Eredivisie standings by eventually seeing off a dogged FC Twente at De Grolsch Veste.

Following a goalless opening period, a seventh successive league triumph for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side was secured by virtue of two goals in the final quarter of an hour in Enschede – Eljero Elia escaping the attentions of Dylan Seys before squaring the ball for an unmarked Eric Botteghin to net another priceless goal in the Rotterdam giants’ quest for a first league title triumph since the turn of the century with fifteen minutes to play.

With the hosts stretched in search of an equaliser, the visitors made sure of the points when Feyenoord’s top scorer, Nicolai Jorgensen squeezed the ball between home ‘keeper, Nick Marsman and the near post three minutes from time.

The twenty first round of action was concluded at the Stadion Galgenwaard where it ended ten-a-side as FC Utrecht recorded their second win in as many outings to leapfrog visitors, Heerenveen into fourth place in the standings.

With the home side having squandered a plethora of chances to take the lead in the opening stages, Andreas Ludwig eventually fired the hosts into the lead with 25 minutes on the clock – squeezing the ball past visiting ‘keeper, Erwin Mulder from the narrowest of angles after being found in space on the right by Sofyan Amrabat after the away side failed to clear their lines following a corner.

Try as they might, Heerenveen just couldn’t force and equaliser – Morten Thorsby going closest for the visitors – flicking a corner onto David Jensen’s left hand upright just before the break before a tense and progressively tempestuous affair boiled over in the final eight minutes – Swede, Sam Larsson being shown a second yellow card from referee, Jochem Kamphuis in the 83rd minute before goal-scorer, Ludwig was also sent for an early shower four minutes later after receiving a straight red card for what the official somewhat harshly adjudged to be a stamp on the back of the left knee of Real Madrid loanee, Martin Odegaard.         

Results: Week 21

ADO Den Haag 0-2 Vitesse Arnhem

NEC Nijmegen 1-2 Go Ahead Eagles

AZ Alkmaar 2-4 PSV Eindhoven

Willem II 1-3 Heracles Almelo

FC Groningen 1-1 Excelsior

Roda JC 0-2 AFC Ajax

Sparta Rotterdam 2-3 PEC Zwolle

FC Twente 0-2 Feyenoord

FC Utrecht 1-0 SC Heerenveen



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