The twenty fifth round of action in the Dutch top flight got underway at the Noordlease Stadion where relegation-threatened, NAC Breda kept fellow strugglers, Groningen in sight thanks to an 86th minute equaliser from Mitchell te Vrede.
The hosts were unlucky not to take the lead ten minutes into what would ultimately prove to be a goalless opening period when, having evaded the attentions of both Lucas Schoofs and Pablo Mari, Mimoun Mahi saw his fierce effort from the edge of the box come back off Nigel Bertrams’ crossbar.
However, the home side looked to be on course to open up a seven-point gap between themselves and Stijn Vreven’s men when the unlucky Pablo Mari diverted a Django Warmerdam cross past his own ‘keeper in the 66th minute as the NAC skipper attempted to keep Mahi at bay on the edge of the box.
Having come into this encounter seven points clear of the bottom three, the hosts were unlucky not to extend their lead when first, substitute, Ajdin Hrustic saw his low drive clip the outside of Bertrams’ left hand upright with the visiting ‘keeper left rooted to the spot after the ball struck Pablo Mari on its way through with seventy seven minutes gone before Gamba Osaka loanee, Ritsu Doan was denied by the bar seven minutes from time.
Groningen’s failure to take those chances would ultimately prove crucial when the visitors, who had earlier come within a whisker of restoring parity themselves when Thomas Agyepong’s speculative effort from well outside the area clipped Sergio Padt’s crossbar a minute before the break, snatched a late share of the spoils when, having stolen a march on Yoell van Nieff to latch onto a perfectly weighted through-ball from second half replacement, Paolo Fernandes, recent arrival, Mitchell te Vrede, having seen his initial effort blocked, beat Padt at the second time of asking four minutes from time.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action got underway at the AFAS Stadion where high-flying AZ Alkmaar left it late to see off bottom-of-the-table Sparta Rotterdam.
Despite Alireza Jahanbakhsh seeing a 9th minute effort strike the foot of Jannik Huth’s right hand upright, it was the visitors who would ultimately break the deadlock when Julian Chabot rose highest to nod home a Ryan Sanusi corner ten minutes later.
However, the away side’s lead would only last until a minute before the break when, having drawn the attentions of Huth, Oussama Idrissi rounded off a fantastic team move by squaring the ball for skipper, Wout Weghorst to claim his nineteenth of the campaign in all competitions.
Having set up the equaliser, Idrissi would then cap an impressive personal display by escaping the attentions of both Bart Vriends and Sanusi with a deft step over before beating Huth with a low drive from just inside the area to secure all three points for the hosts four minutes from time.
Elsewhere, an error from Lucas Woudenberg led to Mike van Duinen putting away-day specialists, Excelsior into what would ultimately prove to be an unassailable lead ten minutes before the break in their encounter with Heerenveen to earn Mitchell van der Gaag’s troops back-to-back league victories for the first time since early November.
However, things might have been very different had Reza Ghoochannejhad’s 8th minute effort found the back of the net instead of striking Theo Zwarthoed’s right hand upright before the visiting ‘keeper was forced to palm a rasping Michel Vlap drive onto his other post shortly before the half hour mark.
At the same time, a 62nd minute effort from Vincent Vermeij ultimately proved enough to see hosts, Heracles get back to winning ways against out-of-form PEC Zwolle.
With the home side having come within a whisker of breaking the deadlock when first, Brandley Kuwas saw his 21st minute effort cannon back off Diederik Boer’s crossbar before Bram van Polen found himself in the right place at the right time to block a goal-bound effort from Vincent Vermeij seven minutes before the break seconds after Boer had been forced to palm a Kuwas corner onto his own bar, it came as little surprise when John Stegeman’s side finally took the lead when Kristoffer Peterson ghosted in at the back post to nod home a pinpoint cross from the impressive Kuwas in the 42nd minute.
However, despite Kuwas then striking the foot of Boer’s left hand upright direct from another corner seconds before the interval, the host’s lead would only last until five minutes into the second half when Younes Namli capped a swift counter attack by slipping in Piotr Parzyszek who restored parity for the visitors by squeezing the ball between an onrushing Bram Castro and the home ‘keeper’s left hand upright.
Yet the home side weren’t to be denied and, having seen Peterson stumble in an attempt to convert a low cross from Roland Baas on the edge of the box, the in-form Vermeij was quick to gobble up the loose ball and seal all three points for the hosts with his fourth goal in his last six outings.
The host’s margin of victory might have been even greater had the Manchester City-bound Phillippe Sandler not been on hand to slide the ball back into the grateful arms of Boer after the visiting ‘keeper’s initial block had only served to slow the progress of Kuwas’ goal-bound effort four minutes from time.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action was concluded at De Koel where visiting, Vitesse Arnhem came back from two-down to snatch a point from their encounter with VVV Venlo.
The points appeared to be going the host’s way early on when, with Torino Hunte having already put the home side into the ascendency with a well taken half volley with just ten minutes on the clock, Lennart Thy was on hand to double his side’s advantage with a speculative effort that took a wicked bounce which caught out Remko Pasveer in the visitor’s net twelve minutes later.
However, just when it appeared that the away side were heading for a second straight defeat, Henk Fraser’s men were handed a way back into the game when, in an attempt to clear his lines, the unlucky Nils Röseler only succeeded in diverting a low Thomas Bruns cross into his own net just five minutes later.
Buoyed by the German’s misfortune, the away side would emerge for the second half with an added spring in their step and ultimately secure a share of the spoils when Lars Unnerstall inexplicably allowed a Mason Mount free kick to slip through his fingers three minutes after the restart.
Sunday’s action began at the Johan Cruijff ArenA where Ajax’s title hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow after Erik ten Hag’s men were held to a goalless draw by visiting ADO Den Haag.
Things might have been different for the hosts had makeshift striker, Siem de Jong found the back of the net instead of heading a Donny van de Beek cross against Robert Zwinkels’ right hand upright or the resultant rebound fallen to someone in an Ajax shirt instead of somewhat fortuitously hitting the visiting ‘keeper’s head as he lay on the line twenty minutes into the second half and Hakim Ziyech found the target instead of curling an 88th minute free kick onto the outside of the same post.
If they hadn’t already realised it beforehand, when David Neres saw his goal-bound effort cleared off the line by a covering Donny Gorter in the third minute of added time the hosts knew it wasn’t going to be their day.
Table-topping PSV Eindhoven took full advantage of Ajax’s failure to secure all three points by hitting reigning champions, Feyenoord for three at De Kuip to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the standings.
The visitors wasted little time in asserting their authority over a Feyenoord side who came into this encounter an incredible twenty points off the pace set by Phillip Cocu’s men at the top of the standings, taking the lead when an untracked Santiago Arias stooped low to glance a Steven Bergwijn cross past a static Brad Jones with twenty-three minutes on the clock.
The away side would double their advantage just twelve minutes later when Bart Nieuwkoop failed to cut out an incisive through-ball from Gaston Pereiro, allowing Bergwijn to streak clear and slip the ball past an exposed Jones.
With the chance of retaining their title now long gone, the hosts might have been forgiven for turning their attention to Wednesday night’s KNVB Beker semi-final tie with Willem II. However, when half time replacement, Jean-Paul Boëtius hit the by-line and cut the ball back for Tonny Vilhena to head the ball beyond a static Jeroen Zoet eight minutes into the second half, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men found themselves right back in the game.
Yet, any hopes the home side may have harboured of replicating their recent cup success over the men from Eindhoven were effectively ended just five minutes later when Pereiro found himself in the right place at the right time to restore the visitor’s two-goal cushion, the Uruguayan stabbing the ball into an unguarded net from the edge of the box after Jones had found Bergwijn’s initial effort too hot to handle.
Elsewhere, a 14th minute strike from AZ Alkmaar loanee, Ben Rienstra ultimately proved just enough to see Willem II move six points clear of the bottom three after edging out fellow strugglers, Roda JC at the Koning Willem II Stadion.
The twenty fifth round of action was concluded at the Stadion Galgenwaard where in-form FC Utrecht climbed into the top four by claiming a fourth-straight victory after coming from behind to hit struggling FC Twente for three.
Despite coming into this encounter four points from safety, it was the away side who struck first when Danny Holla sent Haris Vučkić clear to claim his fourth goal of the campaign in all competitions with just ten minutes on the clock.
The visitors might have doubled their advantage twelve minutes later but the Slovenian somehow contrived to send an Adam Maher cut-back sailing over the bar when presented with an open goal.
Despite the host’s slow start, normal service was resumed a minute into added time at the end of the first half when Sean Klaiber clawed the home side back on level terms by curling the ball delightfully into the top right hand corner of Joel Drommel’s net.
With Jean-Paul de Jong yet to taste defeat since taking up the reins from Erik ten Hag over the winter break and his side riding a three-game winning streak ahead of this encounter, it came as little surprise when the in-form hosts edged themselves ahead – a deft flick from Cyriel Dessers sending Sander van de Streek away to beat an onrushing Drommel and claim his third goal in his last two outings, twenty-two minutes into the second half.
Any hopes Gertjan Verbeek’s side, who face AZ Alkmaar on Wednesday evening for a place in the final of the KNVB Beker, may have harboured of taking anything from the game were effectively ended ten minutes later when van de Streek capped his second outstanding performance in as many weeks by playing a neat give and go with Yassin Ayoub which resulted in the Moroccan rifling home the host’s third from mid-way inside the visitor’s area.
Results: Week 25
FC Groningen 1-1 NAC Breda
AZ Alkmaar 2-1 Sparta Rotterdam
SC Heerenveen 0-1 Excelsior
Heracles Almelo 2-1 PEC Zwolle
VVV Venlo 2-2 Vitesse Arnhem
AFC Ajax 0-0 ADO Den Haag
Feyenoord 1-3 PSV Eindhoven
Willem II 1-0 Roda JC
FC Utrecht 3-1 FC Twente
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