Following the disappointment of the Netherlands’ failure to qualify for a second major tournament in succession, the eighth week of action in the Dutch top flight got underway at the soon to be renamed Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday evening where hosts, Ajax continued their recent resurgence by hitting four for the second game in a row to move into second place in the standings.
However, despite the sizeable margin of their eventual victory, it took Marcel Keizer’s men until six minutes before the interval to break down a stubborn Sparta Rotterdam outfit and even then it took a horribly misdirected clearance by Ryan Sanusi following a Lasse Schone corner from the right to beat an in-form Roy Kortsmit in the visitor’s net.
Alex Pastoor’s side were their own worst enemy as another own goal saw the home side double their advantage nineteen minutes into the second half – Sherel Floranus inadvertently directing a David Neres cross that had been intended for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar into the back of his own net in the 64th minute.
The hosts’ two top performers on the night combined to make it three seventeen minutes from time when Man of the Match, Hakim Ziyech slipped in Neres who, having evaded the attentions of Floranus, slammed the ball past an exposed Kortsmit before the home side made it four just three minutes later when a speculative effort by Ajax’s Moroccan maestro took a wicked deflection off Amin Younes to send the ball looping over the Sparta ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
The home side might have made their win even more emphatic but when referee, Kevin Blom ruled Younes to have been felled just inside the area by Sanusi, substitute, Kasper Dolberg saw his spot kick saved by Kortsmit in the second minute of added time.
Sparta’s loss in Amsterdam opened the door for fellow strugglers, Roda JC to edge themselves a point ahead of Alex Pastoor’s side.
Robert Molenaar’s side, who, having lost their opening six league games on the bounce, made it two wins on the spin with an Adil Auassar free kick a minute into added time proving the difference in their encounter with another struggling side, NAC Breda at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion on Saturday evening.
With the season’s first instalment of De Klassieker to come next Sunday afternoon at De Kuip, Ajax’s second four-goal victory in as many games also saw Marcel Keizer’s men move ahead of reigning champions, Feyenoord after Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s injury-hit side were held to a goalless draw by high-flying PEC Zwolle in front of their own fans a little later on Saturday evening.
Despite ultimately seeing his charges draw a blank for a second home game in succession, there was some good news for the Feyenoord coach, who, with first choice central defensive tandem, Jan-Arie van der Heijden and Eric Botteghin both side-lined through injury, was able to call upon the returning Sven van Beek when stand-in centre half, Renato Tapia limped off with just twenty one minutes gone.
However, it was the returning Nicolai Jørgensen, who, having replaced Jean-Paul Boëtius just before the hour mark, came closest to breaking the deadlock for the frustrated hosts when the 26-year-old Dane saw his goal-bound effort clawed onto the post by Zwolle’s veteran glovesman, Diederik Boer in the 67th minute.
At the same time, FC Utrecht were putting their recent struggles behind them by seeing off high-flying, Heerenveen at the Stadion Galgenwaard.
Despite former Dutch international, Stijn Schaars’ deflected free kick having edged the away side ahead with twenty three minutes gone, the home side found their way back onto level terms when Yassin Ayoub delightfully curled a set piece of his own from just outside the area past a static Martin Hansen just three minutes later.
Having restored parity, Erik ten Hag’s men would edge themselves ahead four minutes before the break when Ayoub sent PSG loanee, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck through to nutmeg an exposed Hansen at his near post before the 24-year-old Frenchman then sealed all three points for the hosts eighteen minutes into the second half – heading home a Robin van der Meer cross from the left, to move the home side into seventh place – a point adrift of Jurgen Streppel’s side whose impressive start to the season is now fading fast after shipping seven goals in their last two outings.
Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway in Almelo where Vitesse Arnhem left it late to salvage a point from their encounter with Heracles.
Having made all of the running in a goalless first half it was the hosts who eventually broke the deadlock when Kristoffer Peterson headed home a Brandley Kuwas cross from the right from close range seventeen minutes from time.
With one eye on Thursday’s crucial trip to Belgium to face Zulte-Waregem in the UEFA Europa League occupying their thoughts it appeared that the game was slipping away from Henk Fraser’s side. However, the visitors rallied late on and found an equaliser three minutes from time when Milot Rashica found Bryan Linssen, who, having been afforded a surprising amount of time and space inside the host’s area to size up his shot, duly tucked away his fourth of the season in all competitions.
It also ended with honours even in Groningen where a Mimoun Mahi spot kick eight minutes into the second half ultimately earned the hosts a share of the spoils from their encounter with AZ Alkmaar.
With neither side able to make the breakthrough, it appeared as though the sides would head into the interval scoreless. However, a minute into added time at the end of the half Iranian international, Alireza Jahanbakhsh handed John van den Brom’s men the lead with a spectacular half volley from just outside the area that left Sergio Padt rooted to the spot.
However, the visitor’s lead would be wiped out eight minutes into the second half when referee, Bjorn Kuipers awarded the home side a penalty after adjudging Stijn Wuytens to have pulled back Ritsu Doan as the Gamba Osaka loanee seemed poised to shoot inside the visitor’s area leaving Mahi to restore parity from the spot with his fifth goal of the campaign despite Marco Bizot getting a hand to the 23-year-old’s spot kick.
At the same time it was hosts, Willem II who took all three points from their relegation scrap with fellow strugglers, FC Twente to move off the foot of the table and level on points with Rene Hake’s side.
With three wins from their last four matches in all competitions, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in Tilburg five minutes before the break when referee, Richard Martens pointed to the spot after Fran Sol brought Thomas Lam down in the area as the defender attempted to get on the end of a Danny Holla free kick leaving Oussama Assaidi to dispatch the resultant penalty past debutant, Mattijs Branderhorst.
However, despite going in a goal-down at the interval it took Erwin van de Looi’s side just six minutes to restore parity following the restart when Fran Sol made amends for his earlier indiscretion by rising highest at the back post to head a Jop van der Linden corner from the right past a static Jorn Brondeel.
Despite only having one win to their name so far this term it was the home side who then edged ahead on the hour mark when Wolfsburg loanee, Ismail Azzaoui capitalised on a weak block by Brondeel to notch his first of the campaign before Fran Sol secured all three points for the hosts a minute into added time with his second of the game and fifth of the season by poking a low cross from the left by Greek defender, Konstantinos Tsimikas beyond the visitor’s exposed Belgian glovesman from a few yards out.
With Feyenoord’s goalless draw with PEC Zwolle on Saturday evening having allowed Ajax to edge ahead of the reigning champions into second place by virtue of goal difference, league leaders, PSV Eindhoven took the opportunity to stretch their advantage at the top of the standings to five points by hitting undermanned surprise package, VVV Venlo for five at De Koel on Sunday afternoon.
Things appeared to be going the way of the visitors when Luuk de Jong, standing in for the injured Hirving Lozano, teed up Jürgen Locadia who, having cut in from the right, curled his sixth of the campaign beyond the reach of Lars Unnerstall from just inside the area with twenty three minutes on the clock.
However, when Nicolas Isimat-Mirin blatantly pulled back Torino Hunte in the box, referee, Danny Makkelie had little choice but to award the hosts a penalty, leaving Clint Leemans to notch his fifth of the campaign by sending Dutch international, Jeroen Zoet the wrong way from the spot five minutes before the break.
Galvanised by Leemans’ spot kick, the home side emerged from the interval with an added spring in their step and incredibly took the lead just three minutes after the restart when Vito van Crooij’s cross from the left was volleyed home by Hunte from just outside the box.
However, things began to swiftly unravel for Maurice Steijn’s side thereafter as, shortly before the hour mark, the away side drew level when, having weaved his way through the home defence, Gaston Pereiro curled in his fourth goal of the season from the edge of the box before a rash challenge by Jerold Promes on Santiago Arias then resulted in Makkelie giving the veteran defender his marching orders just under four minutes after the 33-year-old had replaced Jens Janse.
Having hit the bar from the ensuing free kick shortly after the dismissal of Promes, German centre half, Daniel Schwaab popped up once more to edge Phillip Cocu’s side ahead twenty three minutes from time with a close range header before half time substitute, Mauro Junior marked his debut by notching his first goal in a PSV shirt five minutes later – the 18-year-old Brazilian finding himself in the right place at the right time to tuck in the rebound after Unnerstall had done well to block a back post header from de Jong with an outstretched right boot just seconds earlier.
When a fifth inevitably arrived through a close range header from Pereiro five minutes from time, the Uruguayan’s second of the match and fifth of the campaign brought up goal number twenty one for Cocu’s free-scoring side in their last five outings in all competitions to add proof, if any were needed, that PSV’s goal-scoring problems of last season are now well and truly behind them.
The eighth round of Eredivisie action was concluded in The Hague where Excelsior once more upset the form book to extend their remarkable unbeaten run on the road this term – Mitchell van der Gaag’s side notching a third away win of the campaign, this time at the expense of undermanned hosts, ADO Den Haag.
With all of their points so far this term having been taken on the road, Mitchell van der Gaag’s side were once more quickly out of the blocks at the Cars Jeans Stadion when visiting skipper, Ryan Koolwijk, having been sent clear down the left by an incisive pass from Luigi Bruins, drew Robert Zwinkels before teeing up Jinty Caenepeel to roll the ball into an unguarded net for his second of the campaign with just seven minutes on the clock.
Despite their recent run of form, things went from bad to worse for the hosts who then saw Edouard Duplan dismissed by referee, Serdar Gözübüyük after the Frenchman picked up a second yellow card following a seemingly innocuous challenge on Caenepeel with just twenty six minutes gone.
However, having posted back-to-back victories ahead of this encounter, Alfons Groenendijk’s side rallied thereafter and restored parity just after the half hour mark when Sheraldo Becker was on hand to tap the ball into an empty net after the visitor’s Icelandic stopper, Ögmundur Kristinsson could only parry Bjørn Johnsen’s initial effort into the path of the 22-year-old in the 32nd minute.
The match appeared to be heading for a draw until Mike van Duinen teed up Hicham Faik to seal a third away win of the campaign for van der Gaag’s side with a well-placed effort from the edge of the area nine minutes from time.
Results: Week 8
AFC Ajax 4-0 Sparta Rotterdam
Roda JC 1-0 NAC Breda
Feyenoord 0-0 PEC Zwolle
FC Utrecht 3-1 SC Heerenveen
Heracles Almelo 1-1 Vitesse Arnhem
FC Groningen 1-1 AZ Alkmaar
Willem II 3-1 FC Twente
VVV Venlo 2-5 PSV Eindhoven
ADO Den Haag 1-2 Excelsior
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