The twenty sixth round of Eredivisie action got underway at the GelreDome where cup finalists, Vitesse Arnhem – having already denied Sparta Rotterdam an appearance in April’s showpiece fixture, heaped more misery on Alex Pastoor’s men by hitting the strugglers for five on Friday evening.

Despite the emphatic nature of the home side’s eventual victory, just one league win in their last three had seen Henk Fraser’s side drift to the fringes of the UEFA Europa League playoff places ahead of this encounter and, with their visitors having recorded back-to-back league victories for the first time since mid-August and fresh from becoming only the second Eredivisie side to lower the colours of league-leading Feyenoord this term, it was surprising just how one-sided this contest ultimately became after Ricky van Wolfswinkel broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute – the 28–year-old capitalising on a poorly judged headed back-pass from Denzel Dumfries which fell invitingly for the Vitesse marksmen to slam his 14th goal in all competitions past the exposed Roy Kortsmit.

In what rapidly became a horror show  for the 20-year-old, the hosts doubled their advantage just twelve minutes later through Navarone Foor – who, after burning off Dumfries down the right, was then in the right place at the right time as the ball ended up at the feet of the 25-year-old via the heel of Sparta centre half, Sherel Floranus – who could only deflect Nathan’s intended cross in the direction of the former NEC Nijmegen man for Foor to fire the home side’s second of the evening past the despairing dive of Kortsmit.

The home side would make it three five minutes before the break and make a little bit of history in the process – 32-year-old, Arnold Kruiswijk heading home a pinpoint Milot Rashica cross from the right to end his own15-year (25318-minute) wait for a goal in the top flight of Dutch football.

If the game wasn’t already over as a meaningful contest, Marvelous Nakamba’s strike on the stroke of half time – whose run was picked out perfectly by a well weighted pass from Chelsea loanee, Nathan, effectively secured all three points for Fraser’s side with a half of football still to play.

However, the hosts weren’t quite ready to put their queue on the rack – Guram Kashia adding a fifth just after the hour mark – the home skipper getting on the end of a flick-on from another Chelsea loanee – his American central defensive colleague, Matt Miazga, following a Foor corner from the right, to seal a five star performance that ultimately fired Vitesse up to fifth ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

On what proved a significant day for those sides battling at the wrong end of the table – the bottom four of which came into the weekend’s matches separated by just one point, Saturday’s Eredivisie action got underway in The Hague where, after showing signs of life under new coach, Alfons Groenendijk – whose side had been unlucky to only take a point-a-piece from their last two outings against FC Twente and FC Utrecht respectively, ADO Den Haag finally picked up a much-needed win at the expense of NEC Nijmegen.

Having snapped a five-game losing streak last time out with victory over Heracles, Peter Hyballa’s side were hoping to build on that momentum and, in the process,  dispel any fears they may have harboured of being drawn into the relegation dogfight in the final weeks of the season.

The visitors went the closest to breaking the deadlock in a goalless opening period – Mohamed Rayhi rattling Robert Zwinkels’ crossbar from just outside the area just after the half hour mark.

However, it was the hosts who ultimately took all three points – which were sufficient to see the men from The Hague climb off the foot of the table, thanks to a first goal since the end of August from Japanese international, Mike Havenaar eighteen minutes from time – the 29–year-old beating visiting ‘keeper, Joris Delle to a Ruben Schaken free kick from the left to head home his fourth goal of what has been a lean campaign thus far for the former Vitesse marksman.

Image result for Go Ahead Eagles 1-3 PSV Eindhoven

While one side were moving away from the foot of the standings another – Go Ahead Eagles, were heading in the opposite direction after coming up short at home to a re-energised PSV Eindhoven.

Having been reinstated into the title race by virtue of both Feyenoord and Ajax dropping points last weekend, Phillip Cocu’s side wasted little time in asserting their authority in Deventer – Gaston Pereiro head a Davy Propper corner past home ‘keeper, Theo Zwarthoed with just ten minutes on the clock only to see referee, Kevin Blom rule the Uruguayan’s finish out after adjudging that Hector Moreno had illegally hitched a ride on the back of Sander Duits as the corner had been taken.

However, it proved only a temporary reprieve for the hosts who fell behind to a Siem de Jong spot-kick five minutes before the break – Rochdi Achenteh had only been on the field for 9 minutes after replacing the injured  PSV loanee, Marcel Ritzmaier on the half hour mark when, having lost his right boot in the pursuit of Pereiro, the substitute inexplicably tugged PSV’s top scorer to the ground inside the host’s area leaving referee, Blom with little option but to point to the spot from which de Jong sent Zwarthoed the wrong way.

Yet, Hans de Koning’s side weren’t finished and, having begun the second half brightly, deservedly clawed their way back on level terms with the reigning back-to-back Eredivisie champions three minutes after the resumption – Brighton loanee, Elvis Manu – who had earlier been denied by Jeroen Zoet in the PSV goal seconds before the visitors had raced up the other end of the field to earn a penalty and ultimately take the lead, making amends by finishing off a neat piece of play that saw Sam Hendriks slip in Arsenal loanee, Daniel Crowley who – having drawn the attentions of Zoet, squared the ball for Manu to tap into an unguarded net.

Despite levelling the scores, the home side – who have struggled defensively throughout the campaign and have not kept a clean sheet since becoming the first Eredivisie side to lower the colours of league leaders, Feyenoord in mid-November, failed to shut up shop and instead continued to cede possession and territory to their visitors as de Koning’s men went in search of a winner on the counter attack.

After having squandered a host of chances to retake the lead, the visitors eventually made their hosts pay just after the hour mark – Luuk de Jong prodding a Santiago Arias cross past the exposed Zwarthoed from close range to restore the back-to-back champion’s advantage.

Phillip Cocu’s side should have made the points safe a couple of minutes later when Pereiro – having shrugged off the attentions of Achenteh on the right, cut inside and rounded Zwarthoed for what appeared a simple finish only to see Joey Groenbast deflect his goal-bound effort into the grateful arms of his goalkeeper via the heels of Xandro Schenk.

With the home side throwing ever more caution to the wind in search of a second equaliser, Andres Guardado wrapped up all three points for the visitors five minutes from time – substitute, Steven Bergwijn leading a length-of-the-field counter attack for the away side following an Eagles corner that came to nought, before picking out the run of Mexican international, Guardado, who slotted the ball past the exposed Zwarthoed to notch just his first goal of the campaign and draw PSV within five points of leaders, Feyenoord and just a point off second placed, Ajax ahead of both their title rivals’ matches on Sunday afternoon.

After posting back-to-back victories over NEC and fellow strugglers, ADO Den Haag, de Koning’s men have now taken just one point from their last four outings and face possibly the worst run-in of all of the sides battling against the drop.

Faced with mounting hurdles on and off the field – with a number of contracts – including that of coach, de Koning, expiring in the summer and – despite the uncertainty surrounding their Eredivisie status, extensions set to shortly be tabled by the club’s hierarchy, the Eagles’ fate could well be decided over the next few weeks. The relegation-threatened Deventer-based outfit face three local derbies – including next Sunday’s crucial IJsselderby against fellow strugglers, PEC Zwolle, in addition to a daunting away trip to title-chasing, Feyenoord over the course of their next four games.

Elsewhere on Saturday evening, Heracles left it late to snatch a victory and, in the process, reinsert themselves into the race for a berth in the UEFA Europa League playoff places at the expense of the side they beat to earn a spot in Europe’s second tier club competition this term in the final of last season’s playoffs – FC Utrecht.

Having lost just one of their last six ahead of this trip to Almelo, Erik ten Hag’s side looked to be on track to make it five wins from their last seven matches when Yassin Ayoub put the away side into the ascendancy in the 26th minute – tapping the ball into an empty net after Heracles ‘keeper, Bram Castro could only parry Gyrano Kerk’s sliding effort following a pinpoint cross from Utrecht’s talismanic Frenchman, Sebastien Haller.

Despite a dominant first half display that deservedly saw the away side go in at the break a goal-to-the-good, the visitors would find themselves pegged back just a minute into the second half – a long ball from Justin Hoogma was initially poorly controlled by Brandley Kuwas who saw the ball go up into the air on the edge of the area, yet the 24–year-old’s poor first touch also deceived the entire Utrecht rear guard as well as the away side’s onrushing ‘keeper, David Jensen which afforded Kuwas the opportunity to chase down his errant first touch and tap the ball into an unguarded net.

The match appeared destined to end all square until the host’s star man, Thomas Bruns capped a fine individual display by snatching all three points at the second time of asking in the last minute of normal time to resurrect the home side’s European ambitions.

Saturday’s Eredivisie action was concluded in remarkable fashion at the Stadion Woudestein where another struggling side – Excelsior hit Heerenveen for four to climb out of the bottom three.

A run which had seen Mitchell van der Gaag’s men fail to record a victory since overcoming city rivals, Sparta in mid-November had seen the tiny Rotterdam outfit sink slowly into the relegation mire since the turn of the year but the home side wasted little time in taking the game to their high-flying visitors – Stanley Elbers squeezing the ball past visiting ‘keeper, Erwin Mulder from the unlikeliest of angles to put the relegation-threatened hosts into the ascendancy on the quarter hour mark.

The hosts doubled their advantage three minutes before the break – Jurgen Mattheij heading home an out-swinging Hicham Faik corner from the left in the 42nd minute before the two combined again in the second half but this time come away with a gashed head (Mattheij) and a broken tooth (Faik) following a nasty clash of heads as both went to clear the same ball on the hour mark.

Any thoughts of a comeback for Jurgen Streppel’s side was dispelled three minutes into the second half – Milan Massop rifling the ball home from close range following some strong hold-up play by Mike van Duinen.

Having only been on the field eleven minutes, substitute, Luciano Slagveer’s second in as many games thirteen minutes from time failed to galvanise Streppel’s lacklustre troops who then saw Nigel Hasselbaink race clear of the visitor’s porous rear guard to complete the rout for the hosts a minute into added time.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway in Tilburg where Willem II remarkably edged ever closer to a UEFA Europa League playoff place after seeing off PEC Zwolle.

With three wins from their last five outings, things had been looking up for Ron Jans’ side, yet it was their hosts who started the brighter and deservedly took the lead in the 24th minute through Erik Falkenburg – the 28-year-old tucking the rebound past the helpless Mickey van der Hart in the visitor’s goal from close range after the former Ajax glovesmen had denied a low Dico Koppers drive from just inside the area just past the mid-point of the first half.

Falkenburg could have bagged himself a brace ten minutes before the break but for the acrobatics of Juventus loanee, Ouasim Bouy whose spectacular bicycle kick sent the much-travelled Dutchman’s goal-bound effort against the bar and away from danger.

Despite their dominant first half display, the hosts had their Greek ‘keeper, Kostas Lamprou to thank on a number of occasions as they rode their luck throughout the second half as the visitors turned the screw in search of an equaliser until van de Looi’s men eventually delivered the killing blow in the dying moments – substitute, Thom Haye sealing all three points for the hosts by lashing the ball past the exposed van der Hart after catching the visitors on the break following a pinpoint pass out of defence by Anouar Kali a minute into added time.

Having suffered just their second defeat of an otherwise imperious league campaign last time out at the hands of city rivals, Sparta Rotterdam, Feyenoord got back to winning ways in style a little later on Sunday afternoon by hitting AZ Alkmaar for five at De Kuip.

It took just eleven minutes for Feyenoord’s top scorer, Nicolai Jorgensen to banish the memories of last weekend’s setback across the city at Het Kasteel – the Danish marksmen sliding the ball past the exposed Tim Krul in the away goal after being slipped in by an incisive pass from in-demand full back, Rick Karsdorp.

The hosts doubled their advantage just ten minutes later – Jens Toornstra slamming the ball past Krul from just inside the area after being set up by Jorgensen to cap off a period of sustained pressure from the league leaders as Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side turned up the heat on this year’s KNVB Beker finalists.

Any hopes John van den Brom’s men may have harboured of making a coming were dismissed just short of the hour mark – the evergreen Dirk Kuyt rolling back the years to lash the ball past Krul to bag the 36-year-old’s eleventh of the season in all competitions after being teed up perfectly by the chest of the impressive, Jorgensen.

However, when Derrick Luckassen headed a well-placed Dabney Dos Santos free kick past the returning Kenneth Vermeer – who was making his first appearance of the season in place of the injured Brad Jones in the Feyenoord goal, from close range just three minutes later, a comeback suddenly didn’t seem entirely improbable as the hosts momentarily lifted their foot off the gas.

That was until ten minutes from time when a quick- fire double in the space of two minutes from Jorgensen sealed all three points for the hosts. With referee, Pol van Boekel having adjudged the Dane to have been unlawfully restrained in the area by Luckassen, Jorgensen stepped up to convert the resultant spot-kick – sending AZ’s spot-kick hero, Krul the wrong way to bring up number four for van Bronckhorst’s side before notching a first hat trick of what has already been an impressive debut campaign in Rotterdam for the 26-year-old forward – rolling the ball into an unguarded net after beating the onrushing Newcastle United loanee to a penetrating through ball by Toornstra in the 82nd minute.

Despite Wout Weghorst claiming a last gasp consolation for the away side with the last kick of the game to end a barren run of ten games in all competitions without a goal for the former Heracles forward, van den Brom will take little comfort from this display as his side continue to blow hot and cold in the league as they look to secure a path back into the UEFA Europa League for next season.

At the same time, Roda JC climbed off the foot of the table after seeing off ten-man, FC Groningen at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion.

Two straight losses from their last two outings in addition to wins for a number of sides in and around them in the standings had left Yannis Anastasiou’s side propping up the table ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.

However, with no wins in their last eight, Ernest Faber’s Groningen ultimately proved ideal prey for the struggling Kerkrade-based outfit who took the lead just after the half hour mark – Abdul Ajagun heading a pinpoint cross from Mikhail Rosheuvel into the roof of Sergio Padt’s net with 31 minutes on the clock.

Having netted on just fifteen occasions in the league this term prior to this encounter – the lowest conversion rate in the top tier of Dutch football, it was hoped that an influx of attacking talent during the winter transfer window would see Anastasiou’s goal-shy side hit the back of the net with more regularity as they look to safeguard their Eredivisie status as we approach the business end of the campaign. Yet, when the home side did double their advantage nine minutes into the second half it was the unlikely figure of veteran centre half, Chris Kum who popped up with the decisive touch – the 31-year-old rising highest to head home an Adil Auassar corner in the 54th minute.

Any hopes Faber’s troops may have harboured of taking anything from their trip to Kerkrade were dismissed twelve minutes later when German forward, Dani Schahin made it three with just his second goal of an injury-ravaged campaign – heading home a Mitchel Paulissen cross from close range in the 66th minute.

Despite Bryan Linssen pulling one back for the hosts seventeen minutes from time – the 26-year-old bagging his fourth goal in his last three outings, a comeback would fail to materialise while the away side’s in-form forward would also see red in the dying moments – referee, Martin van den Kerkhof showing Linssen a straight red card after the goal-scorer lashed out at Roda centre half, Frederic Ananou as the defender ushered the ball to safety a minute into added time.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action was concluded at the Amsterdam ArenA where Ajax kept up the pressure on league leaders, Feyenoord by dispatching visitors, FC Twente.

Despite enduring a frustrating opening forty five minutes, Peter Bosz’s side – who entertain FC Copenhagen on Thursday evening trailing by two goals to one in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie, came to life ten minutes into the second half – Amin Younes continuing his impressive second half of the campaign for the hosts by slotting home from just outside the box after being picked out in space by Davy Klaassen’s pinpoint cut-back from the by-line.

The 23-year-old German had a hand in the home side’s second as Bosz’s title-chasers doubled their advantage twelve minutes later through Danish starlet, Kasper Dolberg – Younes slipping in the 19-year-old wonder kid who, having evaded the attentions of the visitor’s rear guard, rounded the exposed, Nick Marsman before tucking away his sixteenth of an already impressive debut campaign in the top flight of Dutch football.

Rene Hake’s men seldom looked like taking anything from their trip to Amsterdam and Dolberg made sure of all three points for the home side by bagging himself a brace – the young Dane stabbing home the host’s third of the afternoon from close range after being  picked out by ex-Twente man, Hakim Ziyech in the first minute of added time to move Bosz’s troops within four points of top-of-the-table, Feyenoord but, just as importantly, four points clear of reigning back-to-back champions, PSV Eindhoven in third with games against both still to come before the end of the season.

Results: Week 26

Vitesse Arnhem 5-0 Sparta Rotterdam

ADO Den Haag 1-0 NEC Nijmegen

Go Ahead Eagles 1-3 PSV Eindhoven

Heracles 2-1 FC Utrecht

Excelsior 4-1 SC Heerenveen

Willem II 2-0 PEC Zwolle

Feyenoord 5-2 AZ Alkmaar

Roda JC 3-1 FC Groningen

AFC Ajax 3-0 FC Twente



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