Following the international break, the twenty eighth round of Eredivisie action got off to a false start on Saturday evening at the AFAS Stadion where cup finalists, AZ Alkmaar were held goalless by visitors, Groningen.

At the same time, visitors, Excelsior came from behind to pick up a priceless point in their battle to avoid the drop at the expense of hosts, PEC Zwolle at the MAC3PARK Stadion.

Yet it was the home side – buoyed by victory over local rivals, Go Ahead Eagles last time out, who seemed on course for a second win on the bounce when Ajax loanee, Django Warmerdam beat Feyenoord loanee, Warner Hahn from outside the box to notch his second goal in as many games in the 26th minute.

However, as the visitors proved last time out by frustrating the title ambitions of high-flying Ajax, Mitchell van der Gaag’s men are determined to retain their Eredivisie status and were back on level terms just eight minutes later – Luigi Bruins slotting the ball past Mickey van der Hart after being slipped in by Mike van Duinen eleven minutes before the break to ultimately edge the tiny Rotterdam-based outfit two points clear of the bottom three ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.

Despite there being no further goals, both sides threatened to edge themselves ahead before the break – Danny Holla rattling Hahn’s left hand upright in the 38th minute for the hosts before Excelsior’s Stanley Elbers slammed the ball against van der Hart’s crossbar in the 44th minute.

Elsewhere, reigning back-to-back champions, PSV Eindhoven temporarily moved into second placed by taking all three points from their trip to another side struggling at the wrong end of the table – Sparta Rotterdam.

With PSV’s title rivals, Ajax and Feyenoord set to lock horns in De Klassieker at the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday afternoon, Phillip Cocu’s men knew that all three points were imperative if they harboured any hopes of remaining in the title picture and took the lead in the 21st minute – Jurgen Locadia beating Roy Kortsmit from just outside the box with a low drive to notch his first goal of an injury-ravaged campaign after the home side failed to adequately clear their lines following a Jetro Willems corner from the left.

With Jerson Cabral having failed to punish Jeroen Zoet after the Dutch international ‘keeper was involved in a mix-up with centre half, Hector Moreno – despite the former Feyenoord man being presented with an open goal, it was instead the visitors who made the home side pay for their profligacy by capitalising on an error in the home defence to double their advantage and ultimately secure all three points –  a Rick van Drongelen mistake allowing Chelsea loanee, Marco van Ginkel to skip around an exposed Kortsmit and roll the ball into an empty net three minutes before the break to move Cocu’s side within five points of league leader’s, Feyenoord.

FC Utrecht moved five points clear in fourth after seeing off fellow European hopefuls, Willem II on Saturday evening.

The hosts were the first out of the blocks at the Stadion Galgenwaard and had Sebastien Haller to thank when the talismanic Frenchman put the home side into the ascendancy with just ten minutes on the clock – Haller latching onto a pin-point cross from the left by Kevin Conboy to beat Kostas Lamprou in the visiting goal and notch his fortieth goal in Utrecht colours – a strike which equalled Stefaan Tanghe’s record as the club’s top foreign goal scorer.

Having wasted a number of chances to make the points safe, Erik ten Hag’s side eventually sealed the victory in the third minute of added time at the end of the game when Ajax loanee, Richairo Zivkovic found himself in the right place at the right time to tap the ball in from close range after Nacer Barazite had seen his curling effort cannon off both of Lamprou’s uprights.

At the same time, hosts Heracles came from behind to see off visitors, Heerenveen in emphatic fashion in Almelo – the hosts hitting Jurgen Streppel’s side for four at the Polman Stadion.

The visitors couldn’t have asked for a better start as, with just five minutes on the clock, Iranian international Reza Ghoochannejhad handed the away side the lead from the penalty spot – Mike te Wierik having brought down Pelle van Amersfoort in the box leaving referee, Martin van den Kerkhof  with little choice but to award Streppel’s out-of-form side a spot-kick.

Yet, despite being handed an early lead, instead of three much-needed points in their quest to secure a UEFA Europa League playoff place, Ghoochannejhad’s strike instead proved to be the one bright spot in an otherwise wretched evening for Streppel’s side who were pegged back just four minutes later when 22-year-old, Reuven Niemeijer slid home a Brandley Kuwas cross from the right at the back post to mark his first league start for the hosts with a first Eredivisie goal in the ninth minute.

Heracles’ top scorer, Samuel Armenteros put the hosts into the ascendancy with a well-placed free kick eleven minutes later before Kuwas repeated the free-scoring Swede’s feat by slamming home a set piece of his own with 26 minutes gone.

Things were starting to unravel for the visitors who then had Jerry St. Juste dismissed just after the half hour mark following a reckless challenge on Robin Gosens which earned the 20-year-old a second yellow card from referee, van den Kerkhof in the 31st minute.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as any thoughts Streppel’s troops may have harboured of a comeback were dispelled when Kristoffer Peterson made it four for John Stegeman’s men just short of the interval – the Swede heading home a Kuwas corner from the right, to leave the hosts just three points off their visitors and keep alive their dream of snatching a UEFA Europa League playoff place.

On the other hand, having suffered a third straight defeat and with just two wins since the winter break, Heerenveen’s once promising season appears to have completely come off the rails.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway at the GelreDome where cup finalists, Vitesse Arnhem took the bragging rights by seeing off NEC Nijmegen in the Gelderse derby thanks to a double from Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

Following a goalless opening period, van Wolfswinkel was on hand to head home a Lewis Baker free kick from the edge of the box five minutes into the second half before NEC substitute, Ferdi Kadioglu clawed Peter Hyballa’s strugglers back on level terms – curling the ball into the top left hand corner of Eloy Room’s net in the 66th minute – just seven minutes after replacing Gregor Breinburg.

Having posted just three wins since the turn of the year, Hyballa’s troops have struggled to put points on the board following a promising first half of the campaign and now find themselves just three points above the bottom three and the away side failed to take anything from their trip to Arnhem after referee, Serdar Gozubuyuk awarded the hosts a penalty six minutes from time when Michael Heinloth handled the ball in the area leaving van Wolfswinkel to ensure local bragging rights would belong to Henk Fraser’s side – beating visiting ‘keeper, Joris Delle from the spot to notch his sixteenth strike of a prolific first season back in the Netherlands for the 28-year-old Dutch international.

Elsewhere, in what was billed as a real relegation six-pointer, ADO Den Haag edged closer to safety by hitting fellow strugglers, Roda JC for four at the Kyocera Stadion on Sunday afternoon.

The hosts caught their visitors cold with just forty six seconds on the clock – Sheraldo Becker firing the home side into the ascendancy after being slipped in down the right by an incisive ball from Dion Malone.

The home side then doubled their advantage from the spot just before the half hour mark – Abdenasser El Khayati sweeping home the penalty after Christian Kum was adjudged to have handled the ball in the visitor’s area by referee, Dennis Higler.

Any hopes Yannis Anastasiou’s side may have harboured of making a comeback were dispelled on the hour mark when Japanese international, Mike Havenaar added a third with a close range tap in after visiting ‘keeper, Benjamin van Leer failed to hold on to Malone’s initial effort from just outside the area.

Things went from bad to worse for the Kerkrade-based outfit who saw Guyon Fernandez head home the host’s fourth from a Randy Wolters cross from the left for Alfons Groenendijk’s side in the 87th minute before Mohamed El Makrini netted a consolation for the well-beaten visitors with a low drive from the edge of the area a minute from time.

Image result for ajax 2-1 feyenoord

There was little doubt as to the game of the weekend as second placed, Ajax played host to league leaders, Feyenoord in De Klassieker at the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday afternoon.

Having dropped what could ultimately prove to be two crucial points away at Excelsior a week earlier and having also seen PSV edge ahead of them following the reigning back-to-back champions’ victory over Sparta on Saturday evening, Peter Bosz’s side knew that, if they were to have any hope of bridging the six point gap between the two sides, that nothing less than victory over their bitter rivals would suffice and the home side got off to the best possible start as Lasse Schone lashed a stunning 30-yard free kick in off the underside of visiting ‘keeper, Brad Jones’ crossbar with just fifty four seconds on the clock.

Things went from bad to worse for the away side as Giovanni van Bronckhorst saw his top scorer – Nicolai Jorgensen forced off through injury in the eleventh minute and, unable to get a foot-hold in the match, the away side’s frustrations boiled over on the half hour when Steven Berghuis petulantly fired an errant ball back into the crowd while waiting to take a corner kick from the left – resulting in the Watford loanee being hit on the back of the head by one of a number of projectiles that subsequently rained down on the playing surface.

With the away side seemingly teetering on the brink of the sort of capitulation that had, until recently, become their hallmark in big match situations following the turn of the century, the hosts soon doubled their advantage through recent big-money signing – Brazilian, David Neres, who marked his first league start by getting on the end of a perfectly placed ball from Hakim Ziyech in the 36th minute.

Despite Jorgensen’s replacement – Michiel Kramer eventually finding a response for the visitors, his strike from just outside the area in the first minute of added time at the end of the match ultimately proved too-little-too-late for the league leaders to salvage anything from yet another disappointing trip to the Amsterdam ArenA.

Meanwhile, the victory saw Ajax reclaim second place from PSV while the Amsterdam giants also cut their bitter rival’s lead at the top of the standings to just three points with six games left to play.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action was concluded in Enschede, where new coach, Robert Maaskant marked his return to Go Ahead Eagles by masterminding victory over local rivals, FC Twente.

Having opted to dismiss coach, Hans de Koning following the disappointing home defeat to PEC Zwolle in the IJseelderby last time out, the appointment of Maaskant – who began his playing career at the club in 1989 before returning for a short spell as coach in 2003, had divided opinion on the terraces and despite an encouraging opening period, the sizeable travelling band of away fans felt that familiar sinking feeling once more on the stroke of half time when Manchester City loanee, Enes Unal found himself in the right place at the right time to tap the ball into an empty net to notch goal number fourteen of a fruitful season in the Dutch top flight for the 19-year-old marksman after Frederik Jensen – having wrong-footed Sander Duits, had been allowed to surge deep into the visitor’s area.

However, eight minutes into the second half the away side were back on level terms – Sam Hendriks turning home a low Marcel Ritzmaier cross from the left from the edge of the box.

The away side could have taken the lead on the hour only for Jarchinio Antonia to see his rasping right-footed effort from well outside the box cannon back off Nick Marsman’s crossbar.

However, the visitors didn’t have to wait long before the provider of Hendriks’ equaliser then turned goal-scorer – PSV loanee, Ritzmaier’s long range free kick catching out Twente’s former Eagle – Marsman in the home side’s net to ultimately bag three crucial points for the away side and get Maaskant’s third spell in Deventer off to a perfect start despite Chinedu Ede seeing a late goal controversially disallowed by referee, Ed Janssen who adjudged the substitute to have been in an offside position despite replays suggesting the German was level with the last man having been played in by fellow replacement, Jos Hooiveld eight minutes from time.

Despite newly appointed Eagles coach, Maaskant lifting his new side off the foot of the table at the expense of fellow strugglers, Roda JC, things don’t get any easier for the 48-year-old whose charges now face a tricky trip to De Kuip on Wednesday evening.

Results: Week 28

AZ Alkmaar 0-0 FC Groningen

PEC Zwolle 1-1 Excelsior

Sparta Rotterdam 0-2 PSV Eindhoven

FC Utrecht 2-0 Willem II

Heracles 4-1 SC Heerenveen

Vitesse Arnhem 2-1 NEC Nijmegen

AFC Ajax 2-1 Feyenoord

ADO Den Haag 4-1 Roda JC

FC Twente 1-2 Go Ahead Eagles


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