The twenty sixth round of action in the Dutch top flight got underway on Friday evening at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion where visiting, Heracles hit struggling Roda JC for three to move within five points of the UEFA Europa League play-off places.
Buoyed by victory over PEC Zwolle last time out, the away side were quick to assert their authority over their relegation-threatened hosts and would take the lead just with just thirteen minutes on the clock when Brandley Kuwas rifled home a free kick from well outside the area that left Hidde Jurjus grasping at thin air.
Despite visiting coach, John Stegeman this week committing his future to Go Ahead Eagles, his side would double their advantage six minutes before the break through Kristoffer Peterson, who having outmuscled both Mikhail Rosheuvel and Mohamed El Makrini on the edge of the area, cut inside and left Patrick Banggaard for dead before picking out the bottom left hand corner of Jurjus’ net.
The hosts, who came into this encounter without a win in their last six outings in all competitions, might have got back into the game in the 67th minute but Roland Baas was in the right place at the right time to head a goal-bound effort from Dani Schahin off the line before Banggaard got in the way of a Kuwas strike at the other end that would have effectively killed the match as a contest four minutes later.
Having been frustrated once again when first, Baas stabbed the ball against Jurjus’ left hand upright before second half substitute, Paul Gladon’s subsequent finish was ruled out by referee, Jochem Kamphuis seven minutes from time after the man on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers clearly handled the ball before finding the back of the host’s net, that illusive third goal would eventually arrive in the 89th minute when Kuwas laid the ball back for Peter van Ooijen to claim his first of the campaign with a low drive from just outside the area.
Saturday’s Eredivisie action began at the Philips Stadion where PSV Eindhoven hit in-form, FC Utrecht for three to move ten points clear at the top of the standings.
With Jean-Paul de Jong still yet to taste defeat since taking over as coach from Erik ten Hag over the winter break and his side coming into this encounter on the back of four straight wins it came as little surprise when the visitors almost took an early lead when Mark van der Maarel swept the ball onto the foot of Jeroen Zoet’s right hand upright with just thirteen minutes gone.
However, the full back’s miss would ultimately prove costly as it was the hosts, whose only defeat in their last twelve outings came at the hands of reigning Eredivisie champions, Feyenoord in the quarter finals of the KNVB Beker (a defeat which they promptly avenged last time out), who would subsequently take a stranglehold on proceedings when the unlucky Ramon Leeuwin unwittingly broke the deadlock by diverting a Bart Ramselaar cut-back into his own net before Luuk de Jong left David Jensen rooted to the spot with an audacious bicycle kick to double the home side’s advantage just six minutes later.
Galvanised by their first half performance, it would take Phillip Cocu’s men just six second half minutes to effectively end the game as a contest when, having sprinted half the length of the field after picking up the ball from Santiago Arias just inside his own half, Steven Bergwijn turned Sean Klaiber inside out and slotted the ball past an exposed Jensen to make it three from just outside the box.
Fresh from booking a place in the final of the KNVB Beker for the second time in as many years on Wednesday evening, AZ Alkmaar withstood a late rally from hosts, Excelsior to post a fourth straight victory in all competitions and move to within two points of second placed Ajax.
With a relieved Theo Zwarthoed having had the woodwork to thank after the away side came within a whisker of taking a seventh minute lead when a low drive from Guss Til struck the foot of his right hand upright, the home side’s experienced shot-stopper would then unwittingly give the visitors a helping hand by diverting an Alireza Jahanbakhsh cross into his own net twelve minutes later.
Despite the home side carving out the majority of the chances thereafter, the visitors would double their advantage a minute before the break when Pantelis Hatzidiakos capitalised on some loose play from Wout Faes to send Jahanbakhsh away to claim his thirteenth of the campaign in all competitions.
Having emerged for the second half with a renewed sense of purpose, the hosts would come within a whisker of reducing the arrears on the hour when Wout Weghorst was in the right place at the right time to clear a goal-bound header from Jurgen Mattheij off the line.
However, despite the best efforts of AZ loanee, Levi Garcia, who teed up Ali Messaoud to halve the away side’s advantage with a spectacular effort from just outside the area four minutes later – just five minutes after the 20-year-old had been brought on to replace Stanley Elbers, an equaliser ultimately remained elusive for Mitchell van der Gaag’s men.
Elsewhere, out-of-form Heerenveen ended a run of four games without a win by heaping more misery on struggling Willem II, who, having been hit for three in their semi-final tie with Feyenoord in the KNVB Beker on Wednesday night, fell to a goal in either half at the Abe Lenstra Stadion.
The hosts would make the perfect start when a low drive from Lucas Woudenberg found the foot of Mattijs Branderhorst’s left hand upright on its way into the back of the net for the 23-year-old’s first of the campaign with just thirteen minutes on the clock before, having evaded the attentions of Darryl Lachman, Reza Ghoochannejhad flicked home a pinpoint cross from Denzel Dumfries two minutes into the second half to claim his fourth goal in his last seven outings and three much-needed points to leave Jurgen Streppel’s men just three points off the UEFA Europa League play-off places.
At the same time, there were remarkable scenes in Breda where, having overcome Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men earlier in the campaign, NAC eased their own relegation fears by coming from behind to see off reigning Eredivisie champions, Feyenoord.
Despite the eventual result, things had begun well for the visitors who, having booked their place in the final of the KNVB Beker on Wednesaday evening, hit the front with just seventeen minutes gone at the Rat Verlegh Stadion when some neat inter-play by the away side culminated in Tonny Vilhena poking the ball back for Jens Toornstra to sweep home his eighth of the season in all competitions from mid-way inside the area.
However, the visitor’s advantage would last just six minutes when Thierry Ambrose found himself in the right place at the right time to tap the ball into an unguarded net, seconds after Brad Jones had clawed the ball away from the feet of a marauding Umar Sadiq.
Having only been drafted into the starting line-up at the eleventh hour when injury forced former Feyenoord man, Mitchell te Vrede to withdraw, the 21-year-old Nigerian made the most of his first start in a NAC shirt by earning and subsequently dispatching a somewhat controversial spot-kick four minutes into the second half to ultimately secure a priceless three points that left the hosts seven points clear of the bottom three after the man on loan from Roma was thrown to the ground in an off-the-ball clash with Jones seconds after attempting to close the Australian down as he cleared his lines.
Sunday’s Eredivisie action got underway at the MAC3PARK Stadion where it ended honours even between out-of-form PEC Zwolle and VVV Venlo.
Despite having been on the back foot for the majority of a goalless opening period, it would be the visitors, who, having been unlucky not to have taken the lead when Johnatan Opoku saw his speculative effort from just outside the area strike Diederik Boer’s right hand upright just a minute earlier, would break the deadlock when a Vito van Crooij free kick found the top right hand corner of the veteran glovesman’s net in the 68th minute.
However, despite coming into this encounter on the back of three straight defeats, the home side would ultimately stop the rot when Youness Mokhtar picked out the head of an unmarked Mustafa Saymak at the back post to restore parity for the hosts with his tenth of the campaign seventeen minutes from time.
Elsewhere, Sparta Rotterdam came from a goal down at home to ADO Den Haag to snatch three priceless points and move off the foot of the table.
Having arrived in Rotterdam unbeaten in their last five outings, the visitors wasted little time in asserting their authority over their struggling hosts when, having been slipped in by an incisive through-ball from Abdenasser El Khayati, Erik Falkenburg swept the ball home off the foot of Jannik Huth’s right hand upright with just six minutes on the clock.
Things might have gotten even better for the visitors had Falkenburg found the back of the net as opposed to the foot of Huth’s other post after being sent clear by a well-weighted ball from Lex Immers three minutes before the break.
However, despite taking just one point from the last twelve, the hosts would claw their way back onto level terms just after the hour when Thomas Verhaar glanced former ADO man, Michiel Kramer into the clear to claim just his third of the campaign and first in a Sparta shirt by slotting the ball calmly past an exposed Robert Zwinkels.
Things would get even better for Dick Advocaat’s side when, having seen his 68th minute effort come back off the visiting ‘keeper’s right hand upright, half time replacement, Robert Muhren made Wilfried Kanon pay for a poor headed clearance by turning the Ivorian inside out and lashing the ball beyond the reach of Zwinkels to snatch three much-needed points for the hosts seven minutes from time.
Meanwhile, Ajax’s title hopes were left in tatters after Vitesse Arnhem came out on top in a five-goal thriller at the GelreDome.
Having made the perfect start when Navarone Foor cut in from the right and lashed the ball into the top left hand corner of Andre Onana’s net from well outside the area with just sixteen minutes on the clock, the hosts were unlucky not to add to their lead when a goal-bound header from Matt Miazga was cleared off the line by Hakim Ziyech eleven minutes before the break.
However, the Moroccan’s clearance would ultimately prove to be only a temporary reprieve for the visitors who fell further behind when Bryan Linssen capitalised on some ponderous play from Maximilian Wöber on the edge of the area to steal in and slam the ball past an exposed Onana twelve minutes into the second half.
However, just when the points appeared safe for the home side, a double switch from Erik ten Hag paid immediate dividends when substitute, Mateo Cassierra headed home a Ziyech corner to claw the visitors back into the game just a minute after replacing Wöber on the hour before, having been introduced at the same time as the Colombian, Amin Younes very nearly pulled the away side back onto level terms when his effort came back off Remko Pasveer’s right hand upright two minutes later.
Yet, when a Mason Mount free kick was headed back across goal by Guram Kashia for Linssen to volley home his second and the host’s third with nineteen minutes to play, any thoughts the visitors may have harboured of making a comeback looked to have been put on ice once more and, although the away side would eventually find a second five minutes from time when an unmarked Siem de Jong slammed a Younes knock-down into the roof of Pasveer’s net from a few yards out, a third failed to materialise for ten Hag and his men who ended the weekend ten points adrift of table-topping PSV Eindhoven.
The twenty sixth round of action in the Dutch top flight was concluded in Enschede where relegation-threatened FC Twente put the disappointment of missing out on a place in the final of the KNVB Beker on Wednesday evening by coming from behind to snatch a share of the spoils against fellow strugglers, FC Groningen.
Having failed to win any of their last six outings in all competitions, things were looking ominous for Gertjan Verbeek’s men when Ritsu Doan evaded the attentions of three before slotting the ball past an exposed Joel Drommel from just outside the box to claim his seventh of the campaign in all competitions twelve minutes into the second half.
Things might have gotten worse for the hosts were it not for Peet Bijen who found himself in the right place at the right time to stop a goal-bound effort from Juninho Bacuna after a well weighted lob from Mimoun Mahi took Drommel out of the equation and presented the 20-year-old with an empty net just nine minutes later.
However, having failed to win any of their last seven games, the away side would ultimately have to be content with a fourth draw in as many matches when Tom Boere glanced home an Adam Maher cross from mid-way inside the visitor’s area to ultimately earn the host’s a vital point in their quest to beat the drop nineteen minutes from time.
Things might have gotten even better for the home side but, despite earlier clawing the home side back on level terms, Boere was left frustrated when his header clipped the top of Sergio Padt’s crossbar with a quarter of an hour left to play before a covering Jesper Drost blocked a goal-bound effort from Danny Holla a minute later.
Results: Week 26
Roda JC 0-3 Heracles Almelo
PSV Eindhoven 3-0 FC Utrecht
Excelsior 1-2 AZ Alkmaar
SC Heerenveen 2-0 Willem II
NAC Breda 2-1 Feyenoord
PEC Zwolle 1-1 VVV Venlo
Sparta Rotterdam 2-1 ADO Den Haag
Vitesse Arnhem 3-2 AFC Ajax
FC Twente 1-1 FC Groningen
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