The twenty second round of Eredivisie action got underway on Friday evening at the MAC3PARK Stadion where hosts, PEC Zwolle made it three wins in four outings by dispatching visitors, NEC Nijmegen to move six points clear of the bottom three ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

In a goalless first period, Ajax loanee, Queensy Menig went closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts – seeing his rasping right footed effort from just outside the area cannon back off visiting ‘keeper, Joris Delle’s left hand upright five minutes before the break. Yet, having gone so close to heading into the interval a goal-to-the-good, instead the home side almost went into the break trailing – NEC centre half, Dario Dumic seeing his low drive from the edge of the box smartly tipped onto the post by home ‘keeper, Mickey van der Hart in the 45th minute.

But it was after the interval that the game truly sprang to life – Birmingham City loanee, Nicolai Brock-Madsen’s deflected effort looping over Delle’s despairing dive to give Ron Jans’ men the advantage twelve minutes into the second half.

The hosts could have doubled their advantage seven minutes later when New Zealander, Ryan Thomas unleashed a rasping effort from the edge of the area which rattled Delle’s crossbar.

However, the hosts were almost made to pay for their profligacy when a Mohamed Rayhi blockbuster from well outside the area shook van der Hart’s crossbar in the 71st minute

Having ridden their luck somewhat, the home side found a second just a minute later – a Dirk Marcellis cross from the right finding Menig who, having fluffed his first attempt, made no mistake with his second – crashing the ball past Delle from close range to ultimately secure all three points for the suddenly upwardly mobile hosts.

The defeat was the third on the bounce for Peter Hyballa’s men who, despite being seven points clear of the bottom three, will now be looking anxiously over their shoulder with a trip to Eindhoven to come next week.

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Saturday’s Eredivisie action got underway in Almelo where visitors Roda JC secured a vital point on the road in their battle to avoid the drop.

The optimism surrounding last week’s unveiling of new co-owner, Russian millionaire, Aleksei Korotaev in Kerkrade had not translated into victory on the field against title chasing, Ajax and coach, Yannis Anastasiou knew that with a crucial relegation six-pointer with fellow strugglers Go Ahead Eagles to come next Friday, his side had to start collecting points before it was too late and the Greek’s side looked set to take all three when, following a goalless opening period, the visitors bagged two goals in the space of three minutes just after the hour mark – Mitchel Paulissen’s deflected effort from just outside the area on 65 minutes putting Anastasiou’s men a goal-to-the-good before Tom van Hyfte doubled the away side’s advantage with a well struck left footed half volley from range in the 68th.

Hosts, Heracles meanwhile had secured a remarkable come-from-behind victory over Willem II last time out to snap a three-game losing streak and record their first points since the turn of the year and John Stegeman’s men pulled themselves back into the contest eleven minutes from time through top scorer, Samuel Armenteros who, following a neatly cushioned header from Robin Propper just outside the area, beat Roda centre half, Daryl Werker before slotting the ball past Benjamin van Leer in the visiting goal.

The talismanic Swede completed the host’s comeback with an unmarked back post header – notching his thirteenth goal of the season in all competitions and, in the process, salvaging a point for the home side three minutes from time.

A little later on Saturday evening, league leaders, Feyenoord extended their advantage at the top of the Eredivisie standings to eight points over second place, Ajax by seeing off ten-man Groningen at De Kuip.

Ernest Faber’s men arrived in Rotterdam in confident mood having put together a six-game unbeaten run either side of the winter break that had seen the early season strugglers suddenly on the fringes of the tussle for the end-of-season UEFA Europa League playoffs.

However, the visitor’s confidence seemed to ebb away after Jens Toornstra put the home side into the ascendancy seven minutes before the break – Watford loanee, Steven Berghuis knocking the ball through the legs of Yoell van Nieff before hitting the by-line and finding Toornstra unmarked on the edge of the box to side foot the ball through a cluster of bodies into the corner of Sergio Padt’s net.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men doubled their advantage just before the mid-point of the second half and it was Toornstra who was again on hand with goal number nine of an outstanding season personally for the 27-year-old Dutchman – smashing the ball past Padt from close range to ultimately secure all three points for the league leaders following a delightful back heel from Jan-Arie van der Heijden after the visitors failed to clear their lines following a Feyenoord free kickin the 66th minute.

The away side’s cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Juninho Bacuna fifteen minutes from time – the midfielder being given a straight red card by referee, Serdar Gozubuyuk for what the official deemed to be a reckless challenge from behind on Terence Kongolo.

At the same time, struggling Go Ahead Eagles continued their recent revival – following up their first away win of the season last time out at the expense of NEC Nijmegen by recording their first back-to-back victories since returning to the Dutch top flight last summer by coming out on top in their crucial relegation six-pointer with free falling ADO Den Haag at De Adelaarshorst.

Remarkably, it had taken until 7th February for the axe to fall on a member of the coaching fraternity in the Eredivisie – ADO relieving Zeljko Petrovic of his duties on Tuesday morning following a run of just four wins in 21 games in all competitions following a bright start to the campaign that had seen the men from The Hague collect ten points from their opening four outings.

Stepping in to replace the out-going Montenegrin was former VV Katwijk, Willem II, Den Bosch, Jong Ajax and Excelsior coach, Alfons Groenendijk – the 52-year-old having signed a deal with the Eredivisie strugglers until the end of the current season with an option of a 2-year extension on the table should he prove successful in guiding the side away from the drop-zone.

However, Groenendijk will have his work cut out to turn around the fortunes of a side that appear to be desperately short of confidence and, after coming up short in what was must-win encounter in Deventer, have now posted just one win and ten defeats in their last eleven outings in all competitions.

For his opposite number, Hans de Koning – whose own job appeared under threat until just recently and whose side came into this encounter a point off their visitors – propping up the table in 18th place, things have finally begun to look up with even his side’s previously goal-shy attack, at long last, clicking into gear.

Despite missing the suspended Darren Maatsen and Elvis Manu, the hosts racked up another three here – Sam Hendriks putting the Eagles a goal up seven minutes before the break – tapping in at the back post after visiting ‘keeper, Ernestas Setkus flapped at a Jarchinio Antonia cross from the right before doubling the Deventer-based outfit’s advantage twelve minutes into the second half – breaking away to score after capitalising on a poor attempted clearance from ADO skipper, Tom Beugelsdijk.

The visitor’s cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of their Lithuanian ‘stopper, Setkus who was given his marching orders by referee, Ed Janssen seventeen minutes from time for bringing down Hendriks as the two-goal striker seemed set to wrap up his hat trick after having rounded ADO’s exposed ‘keeper following yet another break away by the home side.

With Groenendijk having used all three of his substitutions, midfielder, Dion Malone was forced to pull on the gloves with the travelling fans no doubt anticipating the worst was yet to come for their side. However, the visitors dug deep and clawed their way back into the contest from the spot – substitute, Abdenasser El Khayati sending home ‘keeper Theo Zwarthoed the wrong way after substitute, Rochdi Achenteh had been adjudged by referee, Jansson to have tugged down Beugelsdijk in the area in four minutes from time.

Yet, the visitor’s comeback failed to materialise and the Groenendijk era in The Hague would begin with the side hitting rock bottom – slumping to 18th position in the table after PSV Eindhoven loanee, Marcel Ritzmaier ensured it would be back-to-back wins for the hosts for the first time this season and that the Eagles would not only move out of the Eredivisie basement but out of the bottom three as well by beautifully lobbing the ball over stand-in ‘keeper, Malone from midway inside the away side’s half in the 90th minute.

Saturday’s Eredivisie action was concluded at the GelreDome where visitors, Willem II put their inexplicable capitulation at home to ten-man Heracles last time out behind them by securing three priceless points on the road at the expense of in-form Vitesse Arnhem.

Henk Fraser’s men came into this encounter unbeaten since the turn of the year – posting four wins and a draw thus far from their five outings in all competitions in 2017 which included securing progression to the semi-finals of the KNVB Beker at the expense of cup holders, Feyenoord and the hosts dominated this encounter for long periods and should have taken the lead when Moroccan, Adnane Tighadouini rattled Kostas Lamprou’s crossbar with a rasping right-footed drive from just outside the area just after the half hour mark.

However, try as they might, the home side failed to make the breakthrough and, with the game seemingly headed for a goalless draw, a late strike from Dico Koppers six minutes from time rocked the hosts who then conceded again in the fourth minute of added time as they chased an equaliser in vain – Watford loanee, Obbi Oulare breaking away to net his first in Willem II colours following the 21-year-old Belgian’s temporary switch from Vicarage Road in January.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway at the Stadion Woudestijn where Excelsior – without a win since mid-November, earned a precious point their battle to avoid the drop at the expense of visitors, FC Twente.

Nigel Hasselbaink had already seen one effort ruled out for offside before giving the hosts the lead on the quarter hour but Mitchell van der Gaag’s strugglers were unable to hold on to all three points – Fredrik Jensen equalising for the visitors ten minutes before the break from close range to ultimately earn a share of the spoils for Rene Hake’s men.

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With one eye on a round of 32 UEFA Europa League showdown with Legia Warsaw to come in Poland on Thursday evening, Ajax – who, prior to kick-off, paid tribute to former great, Piet Keizer – who passed away on Saturday following a short illness at the age of 73, continued to keep up the pressure on league leaders, Feyenoord by dispatching another relegation threatened side – Sparta Rotterdam at the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday afternoon.

Alex Pastoor’s side arrived with the intention of frustrating the home side and their tactic seemed set to send the two sides in goalless at half time until Chelsea loanee, Bertrand Traore – fresh from African Cup of Nations duty with Burkina Faso, stepped in from the right and wrong footed visiting ‘keeper, Roy Kortsmit – rolling the ball in at the near post with his left foot to put the Lancers into the ascendancy on the stroke of half time.

Peter Bosz’s men made it five wins on the bounce four minutes into the second half – Hakim Ziyech side-stepping Michel Breuer before hitting the by-line and teeing up Danish starlet, Kasper Dolberg who made no mistake from the edge of the box to notch his 13th goal in all competitions this season.

The hosts should have had more and could have made it three just short of the hour mark but Traore was denied his second of the game by a smart near post parry by Kortsmit who was then relieved to see the ball cannon off his left hand upright to safety before Breuer cleared a goal-bound header from Nick Viergever off the line with five minutes to play.

Meanwhile, AZ Alkmaar warmed up for their own round of 32 UEFA Europa League encounter with Lyon on Thursday evening by snapping a run of three games without a win – overcoming  another team hopeful of competing in Europe next season – Heerenveen at the Abe Lenstra Stadion.

The host’s European ambitions have taken a battering of late – Jurgen Streppel’s side having recorded just a single win in all competitions since the turn of the year – a run which included another loss to John van den Brom’s men in the quarter finals of the KNVB Beker at the end of January and the home side’s cause wasn’t helped by conceding an early goal – Muamer Tankovic giving the visitors the lead with 17 minutes on the clock – tucking in the rebound after home ‘keeper, Erwin Mulder had denied Wout Weghorst from close range.

The home side should have been on level terms nine minutes before the break but Morten Thorsby saw his low drive from the edge of the box come back off the foot of Tim Krul’s right hand upright.

Having ridden their luck, the visitors doubled their advantage twelve minutes after the restart – Iliass Bel Hassani smashing the ball past Mulder from the edge of the area after the home side failed to clear their lines following a Tankovic corner from the left.

Reza Ghoochannejhad did pull the hosts back into the contest with eleven minutes to play with a smart turn and finish but the Iranian international’s fifteenth strike of the season in all competitions ultimately proved insufficient to earn Streppel’s men anything in terms of points.

The home side’s cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Jerry St. Juste deep into added time – referee, Bas Nijhuis giving the centre half his marching orders following the 20-year-old’s second booking of the match after a rash challenge on Mattias Johansson in the dying seconds of the contest.

The twenty second round of Eredivisie action was concluded at the Philips Stadion where back-to-back reigning champions, PSV Eindhoven kept the top two in sight by seeing off high flying, FC Utrecht on Sunday afternoon.

The visitors where unlucky not to take the lead in the 21st minute of a goalless opening period after Nacer Barazite saw his close range finish wrongly ruled out for offside by referee, Dennis Higler, before the game suddenly sprang to life eight minutes into the second stanza – Luuk de Jong guiding home a looping header from a Davy Propper corner in the 53rd minute to finally break the deadlock.

The hosts doubled their advantage just two minutes later – substitute, Steven Bergwijn crashing home a left wing cross from star man, de Jong from just inside the area.

The hosts should have made it three in the 69th minute but for Propper’s long range blockbuster to come back off David Jensen’s crossbar. However, Chelsea loanee, Marco van Ginkel did eventually put the icing on a dominant second half performance by Phillip Cocu’s men by adding a third deep into added time – crashing the ball home from the edge of the area in the third additional minute to give the hosts their fifth win on the bounce since the turn of the year.

In a week where fellow title rivals, Ajax face tricky trips to Poland and Arnhem, Cocu will hope that his side can whittle away the three point gap between the reigning champions and Peter Bosz’s side who currently occupy second place and a gateway to the qualifying rounds of the lucrative UEFA Champions League when they play host to out-of-form, NEC Nijmegen on Saturday evening.

Results: Week 22

PEC Zwolle 2-0 NEC Nijmegen

Heracles 2-2 Roda JC

Feyenoord 2-0 FC Groningen

Go Ahead Eagles 3-1 ADO Den Haag

Vitesse Arnhem 0-2 Willem II

Excelsior 1-1 FC Twente

AFC Ajax 2-0 Sparta Rotterdam

SC Heerenveen 1-2 AZ Alkmaar

PSV Eindhoven 3-0 FC Utrecht



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