AZ Alkmaar 0-2 Vitesse Arnhem
De Kuip, Rotterdam
Sunday 30th April 2017
Vitesse Arnhem’s talismanic forward, Ricky van Wolfswinkel bagged a late brace to lead his side to KNVB Beker glory at the expense of AZ Alkmaar in the final which was held in Rotterdam on Sunday evening – the 28-year-old guiding the club to it’s first major trophy in it’s 125-year history in the process.
However, despite their grandstand finish to the game, Henk Fraser’s side were second best for much of the opening period and were lucky not to fall behind when, with just three minutes on the clock, a Derrick Luckassen free kick from more than 25 yards rattled Eloy Room’s crossbar.
Yet, despite commanding the majority of the ball, AZ – who last tasted cup glory in 2013, failed to work Room and could only fashion one other clear-cut chance of note before the interval – Wout Weghorst firing wide of the Vitesse ‘keeper’s left hand upright after a slick piece of play by Joris van Overeem had initially released Alireza Jahanbakhsh down the right before the Iranian international’s cut back had found the former Heracles forward in acres of space just outside the box.
Following a lacklustre opening forty five minutes, it was Fraser’s side – making their first final appearance since 1990, who emerged from the interval the brighter – Chelsea loanee, Nathan testing the handling of Dutch international, Tim Krul in the AZ net three minutes into the second half.
Predictably, with the final pitting fifth against sixth in the Eredivisie standings and just a point separating the two in the table, there was little to choose between the sides for much of the second stanza with the game failing to catch fire until twenty minutes from time when Room was called upon to deny a back post header from AZ centre half, Rens van Eijden just seconds after Luckassen had seen a similar effort cleared off the line by Ricky van Wolfswinkel with the Vitesse ‘keeper caught in no-man’s land following a corner from the right.
Despite AZ, who were looking to lift the cup for the fifth time – having secured their final berth via a nail-biting penalty shootout victory over second tier, Cambuur at the start of March, looking the more likely to make the breakthrough, it was Vitesse who, against the run of play, hit the front nine minutes from time when, having stolen a march on the Alkmaar back line, van Wolfswinkel headed a Milot Rashica cross from the right past Krul from close range to become the first Vitesse player to score in the final of the KNVB Beker since Piet van Bochove in 1927.
Shell-shocked, AZ set about attempting to claw their way back onto level terms. But, try as they might, van den Brom’s men failed to fashion any clear-cut opportunities and, instead saw Vitesse double their advantage two minutes from time when a clearance from Fiorentina loanee, Kevin Diks found the run of van Wolfswinkel – who, having taken the ball in his stride , cut inside Ron Vlaar before curling home his 21st of what has thus far been a prolific campaign in front of goal in all competitions for the 28-year-old beyond the reach of Krul to secure, not only a first KNVB Beker triumph for the Arnhem-based outfit – who can now look forward to a place in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League next term as a result, but also the first major trophy in the club’s 125-year existence.
Man of the Match: Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Click on Steven’s name above to follow him on Twitter