The games continued to come thick and fast in the Dutch top flight with the twenty ninth round of Eredivisie fixtures kicking off on Tuesday evening at the Stadion Woudestein where high flying FC Utrecht picked up a third win on the bounce at the expense of struggling Excelsior.
However, it was the hosts who hit the front with just five minutes on the clock when Mike van Duinen shrugged off the attentions of Kevin Conboy to put the home side into the ascendancy with a low drive to the far post that was beyond the reach of visiting ‘keeper, David Jensen.
Despite then seeing a Jurgen Mattheij effort ruled out for offside in the 17th minute and appearing to be in complete control of proceedings, Michell van der Gaag’s men ultimately failed to take anything from this encounter and saw their lead wiped out six minutes before the interval when referee, Jeroen Manschot awarded the visitors a penalty after Jordy de Wijs had tripped Sebastien Haller in the host’s area which Utrecht’s talismanic Frenchman then rolled past Warner Hahn to become the club’s all-time leading foreign goal-scorer – netting his 41st goal since his arrival from Auxerre.
The visitors wasted little time in taking the lead following the restart – Willem Janssen seeing his goal-bound strike headed into his own net by the unlucky Mattheij in the 48th minute before Erik ten Hag’s men sealed all three points seven minutes later when, having seen a Zakaria Labyad strike rattle Hahn’s crossbar, Haller was on hand to tee up Gyrano Kerk for the away side’s third.
With Utrecht almost assured of a place in the UEFA Europa League playoff places, Tuesday’s other fixture saw another European aspirant – Heerenveen, record just their third win since the turn of the year at the expense of Excelsior’s cross-city rivals, Sparta Rotterdam.
Despite eventually hitting their visitors for three, the home side struggled to break down Alex Pastoor’s well-drilled outfit in a goalless first period and it wasn’t until eleven minutes into the second half that Jurgen Streppel’s side finally made the breakthrough – Pelle van Amersfoort lobbing the ball over the head of Roy Kortsmit from the unlikeliest of angles before a flick on by Joost van Aken following a Sam Larsson free kick found its way past the Sparta ‘keeper eighteen minutes from time to double the host’s advantage.
Having seen his earlier goal-bound effort cleared off the line by David Mendes da Silva in a frustrating opening half for the home side, Heerenveen’s top scorer, Reza Ghoochannejhad found himself in the right place at the right time to seal all three points when Kortsmit could only parry Larsson’s strike into the Iranian international nine minutes from time.
Wednesday’s Eredivisie action got underway in Almelo where cup finalists, Vitesse Arnhem continued to close in on a place in the UEFA Europa League playoffs by taking all three points at the expense of hosts, Heracles in a bad tempered affair which saw both sides reduced to ten men.
Despite making a bright start, John Stegeman’s side failed to turn their early opportunities into goals and were made to pay for their profligacy two minutes before the break – Navarone Foor putting Henk Fraser’s side into the ascendancy in the 43rd minute when Milot Rashica intercepted a poor clearance by Robin Gosens to tee up Foor who then curled the ball beyond the reach of Bram Castro.
Despite Reuven Niemeijer rattling Eloy Room’s right hand upright for the home side in the 55th minute, things rapidly went south for the hosts thereafter – the home side being reduced to ten men a minute later by referee, Christiaan Bax after the official gave Robin Propper his marching orders when the centre half picked up his second yellow card in the space of five minutes after tugging back Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Despite the visitors also later finding themselves a man down when Kevin Diks was dismissed four minutes from time – the man on loan from Fiorentina collecting his second yellow card of the match after needlessly shoving substitute, Brahim Darri to the ground as the two contested a high ball, Fraser’s side held on for all three points.
Like their northern neighbours, Heerenveen, Groningen have struggled to put wins on the board since the turn of the year but did post what was just their second victory since the turn of the year by seeing off struggling NEC Nijmegen on Wednesday evening.
Mimoun Mahi set the home side on the road to their first victory since mid-January by putting Ernest Faber’s side into the ascendancy on the half hour mark – Leandro Bacuna capitalising on a Julian von Haacke error before slipping Mahi in to fire the hosts ahead before Bacuna sealed a much-needed victory for Groningen by finding the net from range in the 67th minute.
Having ushered in the Robert Maaskant era with, what was, just their second away triumph in the league this term, Go Ahead Eagles arrived at De Kuip on Wednesday evening – despite their precarious league position, boasting a relatively good recent away record – having lost just once in their last six on the road.
However, following defeat in Sunday’s Klassieker, hosts Feyenoord were eager to resume normal service following an out-of-sorts display in Amsterdam and, with the added incentive of putting their lowly visitors in their place after the Deventer-based outfit had remarkably become the first Eredivisie side this season to inflict defeat on the Rotterdam giants in the two side’s previous encounter at the start of November, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s title chasers showed little mercy – hitting their struggling visitors for eight without reply.
The home side wasted little time putting their guests to the sword – Steven Berghuis hitting the byline before teeing up Jens Toorntra to put the hosts into the ascendancy with just nine minutes gone before Eljero Elia doubled the league leader’s advantage on the quarter hour with a rare right-footed effort from just outside the box that left visiting ‘keeper, Theo Zwarthoed rooted to the spot.
It was three on the half hour – Feyenoord skipper, Dirk Kuyt claiming his 150th Eredivisie goal from close range to open the floodgates as first Toornstra in the 41st and then Jan-Arie van der Heijden on the stroke of half time found the back of the net to send the hosts in at the interval five goals to the good.
Things would only get worse in the second half for Maaskant’s beleaguered side who saw Eric Botteghin make it six five minutes after the restart – nodding the ball in on the goal-line after being found by central defensive colleague, van der Heijden’s powerful back-post header following a Feyenoord corner from the left.
Further misery was still to come for the visitors – Michiel Kramer eventually heading home the host’s seventh eighteen minutes from time after having squandered a plethora of opportunities following his inclusion in place of the club’s injured top scorer, Nicolai Jorgensen, before Toornstra thumped in number eight to complete his hat-trick in the 90th minute with a well-taken half volley at the back post to cap off a dominant performance by the home side which maintained their three point advantage over second placed Ajax at the top of the Eredivisie standings.
Meanwhile, the emphatic nature of the score-line was enough to send the visitors tumbling back to the foot of table.
While relegation rivals, Go Ahead Eagles were being flogged in Rotterdam, ADO Den Haag took the opportunity to move clear of the bottom three by recording their third win in their last four outings with success in Tilburg against Willem II.
Despite the hosts making the better start, it was the visitors who hit the front – Abdenasser el Khayati beating Kostas Lamprou from the edge of the box after smartly side-stepping the challenge of Darryl Lachman in the 21st minute.
However, the away side’s advantage would be wiped out just three minutes later – Watford loanee, Obbi Oularé punishing the poor handling of Robert Zwinkels after the visiting ‘keeper failed to hold on to a Pele van Anholt header.
Yet Alfons Groenendijk’s men weren’t about to let victory slip through their fingers and the away side ultimately sealed all three points three minutes before the break – Japanese international, Mike Havenaar beating Lamprou with a smart turn and strike in the box just seconds after Erik Falkenburg had missed a guilt-edged opportunity to give the home side the lead at the other end of the field while Zwinkels also made amends for his earlier error by denying Elmo Lieftink from point blank range with five minutes to go.
Wednesday’s Eredivisie action was concluded at the Amsterdam ArenA where second placed Ajax followed up victory in Sunday’s Klassieker with a win over cup finalists, AZ Alkmaar.
The hosts wasted little time in asserting their authority in front of a vociferous home crowd – Justin Kluivert picking out Bertrand Traore for the Chelsea loanee to fire the home side into the ascendancy just after the quarter hour.
Despite their first half dominance, the hosts failed to add to their advantage in the opening forty five minutes and, ten minutes into the second half, found themselves back on level terms. This game marked Tim Krul’s return to the club where he spent the first half of the campaign on loan from Newcastle United before accepting a switch to Alkmaar during the January transfer window in search of first team football with Andre Onana having made the number one jersey his own at the Amsterdam ArenA.
However, it would be Onana’s error that would allow the away side back into the contest – the Cameroon international rushing out of his goal but failing to beat Wout Weghorst to a long ball which left the former Heracles striker the simple task of nodding into an empty net.
Yet Peter Bosz’s side weren’t about to relinquish their grip on the title just yet and restored their advantage nineteen minutes from time through an incredible bicycle kick from Colombian centre half, Davinson Sanchez.
Traore was then adjudged by referee, Dennis Higler to have been unlawfully brought down in the visitor’s area by the challenge of Rens van Eijden after which Lasse Schone stepped up to tuck away his second in as many games from the resultant spot kick to give the host’s a two-goal cushion with eight minutes to go.
However, the away side could have found themselves back into the contest five minutes later but Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s low drive three minutes from time only find the foot of Onana’s left hand upright.
Having missed out on the victory over Feyenoord on Sunday, Amin Younes capped off a stand-out performance by adding a fourth two minutes from time after being sent clear by a pinpoint goal kick from Onana to keep Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men within reach with just five games left to play.
Thursday’s Eredivisie action got underway in Kerkrade where Roda JC left it late to pick up just their fifth win of what has been a tough campaign thus far for Yannis Anastasiou’s side at the expense of PEC Zwolle.
However, it was the away side – fresh from unveiling John van ‘t Schip as successor to the departing Ron Jans, who made the brighter start and, having seen Frederic Ananou deny Queensy Menig with a last gasp block on the line just minutes earlier – the Ajax loanee seizing upon a wayward back-pass by Christian Kum and rounding Benjamin van Leer in the Roda goal before being denied by the 19-year-old German centre half, the visitors deservedly took the lead five minutes before the break through Younes Mokhtar who tapped the ball into an empty net after being teed up by the unselfish play of Ryan Thomas when the New Zealander found himself one-on-one with van Leer.
Despite their poor first half display the hosts emerged for the second half a different team and drew level three minutes after the restart – Gyliano van Velzen somehow managing to steer the ball past Mickey van der Hart with his backside after being picked out by a pinpoint near-post cross from Mohamed El Makrini.
The hosts would then go on to secure a vital win in their quest to avoid the drop – Mikhail Rosheuvel pouncing to nod home the winner a minute from time after Beni Badibanga’s long range strike had initially rattled van der Hart’s crossbar.
The twenty ninth round of Eredivisie action was concluded in Enschede where FC Twente put Sunday’s derby defeat behind them by effectively ending PSV Eindhoven’s title hopes by virtue of a last gasp equaliser from Manchester City loanee, Bersant Celina.
Rene Hake’s men started the game the brighter of the two and took the lead with just seven minutes on the clock through another man on loan from the blue half of Manchester – Enes Unal, who, having shrugged off the attentions of Hector Moreno, beat Dutch international ‘keeper, Jeroen Zoet to bag the Turkish international’s fifth goal in his last six league outings.
However, the home side’s lead was soon wiped out by a second in as many games from the fit-again, Jurgen Locadia on the quarter hour mark after the 23-year-old had been put through by an angled ball from Davy Propper.
Despite Joachim Andersen having hit the base of Zoet’s right hand upright in the 25th minute, it was Phillip Cocu’s side who were the next to find the net – Moreno scrambling the ball over the line after Chelsea loanee, Marco van Ginkel’s initial header across the face of the host’s goal was parried into the path of the Mexican defender by home ‘keeper, Nick Marsman six minutes after the restart.
Yet the visitors were to be denied all three points and, in all likelihood, a third Eredivisie crown in as many years when substitute, Enis Bunjaki played in Celina for the Kosovar international to slide the ball beyond the reach of Zoet and earn the home side a share of the spoils in the dying seconds – leaving PSV seven points off the pace with just five matches left to play.
Results: Week 29
Excelsior 1-3 FC Utrecht
SC Heerenveen 3-0 Sparta Rotterdam
Heracles Almelo 0-1 Vitesse Arnhem
FC Groningen 2-0 NEC Nijmegen
Feyenoord 8-0 Go Ahead Eagles
Willem II 1-2 ADO Den Haag
AFC Ajax 4-1 AZ Alkmaar
Roda JC 2-1 PEC Zwolle
FC Twente 2-2 PSV Eindhoven
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