The twenty fourth round of Eredivisie action got underway on Friday evening at De Koel where visiting, FC Groningen came from behind to snatch a vital point from their clash with VVV Venlo to move seven points clear of the bottom three ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.
With a late push for a place in the end-of-season UEFA Europa League play-offs not completely out of the question, it took Vito van Crooij just two minutes to put the home side into the ascendency with a low drive from just inside the area after the 22-year-old had been found in acres of space by Lennart Thy.
However, the visitors, who announced earlier in the week that 35-year-old Danny Buijs would succeed the outgoing Ernest Faber at the helm next term, who arrived in Venlo without a win since the turn of the year and with just six points separating them from Roda JC in 16th would claw their way back onto level terms just thirteen minutes later when Gamba Osaka loanee, Ritsu Doan capped a marauding burst into the area by first, turning Nils Röseler inside out and then beating Lars Unnerstall with a low drive to ultimately secure a vital point in the away side’s quest to retain their top-flight status.
However, the hosts, for whom this point saw them close the gap between themselves and Vitesse Arnhem, who currently occupy the last of the UEFA Europa League play-off places, to six points, might have snatched the win late on had Röseler found the back of the net instead of heading a Clint Leemans corner against Sergio Padt’s crossbar fourteen minutes from time.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action began at the GelreDome where visiting, Excelsior came from behind to snatch all three points.
Having won three of their last four, it took hosts, Vitesse Arnhem just two minutes to break the deadlock when last week’s two-goal hero, Bryan Linssen headed an over-hit cross from Fankaty Dabo back for Luc Castaignos to claim just his third of the campaign in all competitions with a spectacular bicycle kick.
However, despite coming into this encounter without a win in their last four outings, the away side would claw their way back onto level terms just short of the interval when Hicham Faik beat Remko Pasveer with a speculative effort from well outside the area and things would get even better for Mitchell van der Gaag’s side in the 66th minute when, with a marauding run from Stanley Elbers having left the home rear guard at sixes and sevens, an attempted clearance from Lassana Faye struck Mike van Duinen and ended up in the back of the host’s unguarded net to edge the visitors into what would ultimately prove to be an unassailable lead.
Elsewhere, high-flying AZ Alkmaar got back to winning ways by hitting a resurgent NAC Breda for three at the Rat Verlegh Stadion.
Despite drawing a blank in Venlo last time out, the away side would break the deadlock shortly after the half hour mark when Wout Weghorst laid the ball off for Alireza Jahanbakhsh to rifle his twelfth of the campaign into the roof of Nigel Bertrams’ net from just inside the area.
John van den Brom’s men might have doubled their advantage just three minutes after taking the lead but, have been picked out by a pinpoint cut-back from a marauding Jonas Svensson, Guus Til saw his fierce drive from just outside the box come back off Bertrams’ crossbar.
The visitors would effectively wrap up the points with two goals in the space of five minutes early in the second half when, with Oussama Idrissi having teed up Til to double the away side’s advantage with a speculative effort from well outside the area that took a wicked deflection off Manchester City loanee, Angelino two minutes after the restart, the 21-year-old would then square the ball for Mats Seuntjens to claim AZ’s third of the evening in the 52nd minute with deceptive drive from range that left the home ‘keeper red faced.
Having announced his arrival by posting a goal and an assist in the host’s six-goal thrashing of Heracles, Roma loanee, Umar Sadiq would again provide some welcome punch from the bench when the Nigerian reduced the arrears five minutes from time by stabbing the ball home from close range after Marco Bizot had failed to hold on to his initial header before coming within a whisker of bagging a second when his curling effort was denied by the visiting ‘keeper’s crossbar in the third minute of added time.
It was a game of two halves in Eindhoven where, despite the hosts racing into a two-goal lead, the 45th minute dismissal of Hirving Lozano opened the door for visiting, Heerenveen to snatch an unlikely point against table-topping PSV.
With just one defeat in their last ten outings in all competitions, when first, Santiago Arias nodded home a Hirving Lozano corner to open the scoring for the hosts in the 34th minute before Mauro Junior capitalised on some loose play from Kik Pierie by dispossessing the17-year-old just outside the visitor’s area and slipping in Luuk de Jong to double the home side’s advantage just nine minutes later, another three points appeared to be in the bag for Phillip Cocu’s side.
However, when Lozano, who had been given his marching orders in the reverse fixture between the sides in early September in which Jurgen Streppel’s men had inflicted a first league defeat on the men from Eindhoven, was shown a straight red card by referee, Dennis Higler after the Mexican appeared to strike Lucas Woudenberg in the face as the two battled for the ball on the stroke of half time, what seemed a routine victory ultimately proved to be anything but for the Eredivisie pacesetters.
Despite taking just one point from the last six available, the visitors would make their numerical advantage count to claw their way back into the game eleven minutes after the restart when an unmarked Stijn Schaars ghosted in to side-foot home an Arber Zeneli corner from just inside the area before Reza Ghoochannejhad found himself in the right place at the right time to snatch an unlikely point for the away side eight minutes from time when the Iranian international capitalised on the chaos caused by Morten Thorsby’s initial attempt to stab the ball into an unguarded net at the second time of asking after his initial flick-on had been met with a weak punch from Jeroen Zoet.
Despite being a man down, the hosts might have grabbed all three points late on but Martin Hansen got down smartly to toe a de Jong header onto the inside of his right hand upright six minutes from time to preserve a hard-earned point for the visitors.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action was concluded in The Hague where a 92nd minute spot kick from Abdenasser El Khayati sealed a come-from-behind victory for hosts, ADO Den Haag over struggling, Willem II.
Despite posting just one league victory from their last nine outings and having a covering Darryl Lachman to thank when the 28-year-old was in the right place at the right time to block a goal-bound effort from Lex Immers, after the former Feyenoord man had weaved his way through a number of would-be challengers and taken the ball around an exposed Mattijs Branderhorst with twenty two minutes on the clock at the Cars Jeans Stadion, it was the visitors who were the first to strike when ADO loanee, Thomas Meißner came back to haunt his parent club by cutting the ball back for Fran Sol to put Erwin van de Looi’s side ahead five minutes before the break.
However, having seen play-off rivals, Vitesse slip up earlier in the evening, the hosts weren’t about to pass up the opportunity to close the gap between themselves and Henk Fraser’s side and despite Bjørn Johnsen seeing a 56th minute header come back off the foot of Branderhorst’s right hand upright, would find themselves back on level terms in the 69th minute when the Norwegian forward nodded home a pinpoint cross from Abdenasser El Khayati to claim his seventh of the campaign in all competitions.
Then, with the game seemingly destined to end all square, Konstantinos Tsimikas pulled Immers to the ground inside the area as the 31-year-old attempted to get on the end of a Johnsen flick-on in the first minute of added time, leaving referee, Joey Kooij little choice but to award the hosts a penalty which El Khayati duly converted to edge Alfons Groenendijk’s men to within two points of the UEFA Europa League play-off places.
Sunday’s action began in Kerkrade where FC Utrecht temporarily edged their way into fourth after hitting struggling Roda JC for four at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion.
With the visitors yet to taste defeat under Jean-Paul de Jong, it didn’t take long for the away side to assert their authority over their relegation-threatened hosts and, buoyed by posting back-to-back home victories ahead of making the trip to Kerkrade, when Mateusz Klich chipped the ball through for Sander van de Streek to open the scoring with a delightful lob just short of the quarter hour mark, Utrecht didn’t look back.
The away side would double their lead twelve minutes into the second half when Mark van der Maarel found himself in the right place at the right time to smash home the rebound after Hidde Jurjus had done well to deny Zakaria Labyad’s initial effort with his outstretched left foot before an untracked van de Streek swept home a Klich cross to bag his second and the visitor’s third just six minutes later.
Despite second half substitute, Jorn Vancamp weighing in with his fourth goal in his last six outings in all competitions seven minutes from time it was the visitors who would have the last word when another substitute, Cyriel Dessers, found an unmarked Labyad, who, having been afforded an abundance of time and space inside the home side’s area, beat an exposed Jurjus to claim his thirteenth of the campaign in all competitions.
However, despite Utrecht posting a third win in as many games, it was reigning champions, Feyenoord who would end the weekend in fourth place after a 59th minute strike from Robin van Persie edged Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s under-performing charges to victory over a dogged Heracles.
Despite the end result, a shock could well have been on the cards at De Kuip had the agility of Brad Jones not come to the host’s rescue ten minutes into the second half when the 34-year-old tipped a Kristoffer Peterson drive onto his own crossbar before getting up smartly to deny Brandley Kuwas as the 25-year-old looked set to put away the rebound.
With the shock defeat at the hands of VVV and last weekend’s capitulation at the hands of Vitesse still fresh in the minds of the Feyenoord faithful, the discontent continued to build until just short of the hour when Tonny Vilhena squared the ball for Robin van Persie to cap his first start since making his return to Rotterdam by curling home his second goal of his second spell with the club to secure a much needed three points for the hosts and alleviate the previously mounting pressure on van Bronckhorst.
At the same time a scrambled effort from Haris Vučkić five minutes from time denied rock-bottom, Sparta Rotterdam all three points in their clash with relegation rivals, FC Twente.
With the two sides separated by just two points ahead of this encounter, it looked as though the Dick Advocaat’s men were set to move off the foot of the standings at the expense of their hosts when, having come on as a half time replacement, debutant, Michiel Kramer chipped the ball through for Fred Friday to open the scoring in the 62nd minute.
Yet the away side would ultimately end the weekend where they had begun it – propping up the rest, when Haris Vučkić forced a knock-down from Hidde ter Avest past an exposed Jannik Huth from close range to snatch the hosts a share of the spoils, seconds after an Adam Maher corner had sent alarm bells ringing in the Sparta box, five minutes from time.
Advocaat’s men might even have left empty handed had second half substitute, Danny Holla’s 94th minute effort found the back of the net instead of cannoning back off a static Huth’s crossbar.
The twenty fourth round of Eredivisie action was concluded at the MAC3PARK Stadion where title-chasing Ajax took full advantage of table-topping PSV’s slip-up against Heerenveen on Saturday evening by coming away from their encounter with PEC Zwolle with a fourth successive victory to move within five points of Phillip Cocu’s side.
Following a goalless opening period in which they enjoyed the majority of the chances, the visitors emerged for the second half with an added spring in their step and, just five minutes after Donny van de Beek had seen a 49th minute effort come back off the foot of Diederik Boer’s left hand upright and David Neres had somehow contrived to put the rebound over the bar when presented with an open goal seconds later, the away side would break the deadlock when Ajax’s Brazilian starlet made amends for his earlier miss by slipping in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for his tenth of the campaign.
The visitor’s margin of victory could have been even greater had a speculative effort from well outside the area by Justin Kluivert found the back of the net instead of cannoning off Boer’s crossbar on the hour and it was a similar story three minutes later when the 18-year-old’s miss-hit cross very nearly left the former Ajax ‘keeper red in the face.
Results: Week 24
VVV Venlo 1-1 FC Groningen
Vitesse Arnhem 1-2 Excelsior
NAC Breda 1-3 AZ Alkmaar
PSV Eindhoven 2-2 SC Heerenveen
ADO Den Haag 2-1 Willem II
Roda JC 1-4 FC Utrecht
Feyenoord 1-0 Heracles Almelo
FC Twente 1-1 Sparta Rotterdam
PEC Zwolle 0-1 AFC Ajax
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