Feyenoord extend their lead to six points as Ajax slip up at Excelsior

Eredivisie

With only 34 matches in an Eredivisie season, we are starting to enter the make-or-break part of the season for many teams. While league leaders Feyenoord continued their brilliant performances this weekend, title rivals Ajax faltered after a mid-week Europa League victory in Copenhagen. There were lots of one-sided games to be seen in The Netherlands over a span of three days, but if one thing’s for sure then it’s that there was no shortage of goal action to be seen.

Friday

Roda JC 0-3 FC Twente

In the lone match on Friday, Twente travelled to the south of Holland to take on a relegation-battling Roda. The away side was quick to ensure the win when Fredrik Jensen scored a brace before halftime. The young Finnish midfielder finished a great counter-attack with a slotted shot into the corner on 30 minutes before scoring a chipped goal a few minutes before the half. Roda came back from the dressing rooms with a few chances at the other end, but Twente completed the victory when two Manchester City loanees linked up to score the third goal of the day. Yaw Yeboah fed a through ball past the Roda defense for Enes Ünal to pass under the keeper, his 13th goal of the Eredivisie campaign. The victory sent Twente up to 6th in the table, while Roda are still wrangling down in 16th.

Saturday

Groningen 1-1 Willem II

Groningen hosted Willem II in a mid-table clash to get Saturday kick started: a clash that saw the home side pelt the goalkeeper with 13 shots on target. Some of that St. Patrick’s Day luck was on Willem’s side, however, with Kostas Lamprou making a ridiculous 12 saves! Groningen’s Ruben Jenssen latched on to a deflected shot and struck a goal early in the second half, but Willem’s young striker Obbi Oulare responded with a headed goal from a Croux cross to level the match at 1-1. Groningen couldn’t find a breakthrough, and Willem II will head home satisfied with a draw after Lamprou had a performance of a lifetime in goal.

NEC Nijmegen 0-3 FC Utrecht

The side from Nijmegen continued their poor form when high-flying Utrecht quickly dispatched of them on Saturday. Zakaria Labyad’s longshot trickled into the bottom corner of the net after a few bounces, and Yassin Ayoub finished off a counter-attack by blasting his shot over Joris Delle into the top corner. French targetman Sebastian Haller finished off the match in the second half with his low shot to beat NEC’s keeper once again. This win will surely give Utrecht some confidence to hold onto a strong 4th place finish, but NEC move down to 14th and need to start improving their form.

PSV Eindhoven 1-0 Vitesse

In a match-up between two of the top 5 Dutch clubs, PSV proved the better of the two when the red and white of Eindhoven overcame the black and yellow of Arnhem this weekend. Siem de Jong was on his game, registering 4 of his team’s 7 shots on target (as opposed to Vitesse’s meager 2). His goal-pattering proved fortuitous in the 50th minute when, after a corner, Andres Guardado sent in a low cross to the top of the box that de Jong struck powerfully first-time into the opposite corner. It was truly a goal to behold, but PSV didn’t rest after taking the lead. Substitute Locadia struck the post after a longshot late in the second half before Vitesse goalkeeper Eloy Room was forced into a double-save following Marco van Ginkel’s pop at goal. With fourth-placed Utrecht out of the picture, PSV can look to overtake Ajax in the coming weeks with only two points between the rivals. The loss moved Vitesse down from 5th to 7th, so they mustn’t be complacent with Heerenveen hot on their tracks for a chance at a Europa League spot.

Sparta Rotterdam 3-1 Heracles

Two leaky defenses squared off when Heracles visited Rotterdam’s newly promoted club on Saturday and there was certainly no lack of goals to show. Unfortunately for the visitors, most of the goals were in favor of the home side. Sparta’s Ryan Sanusi scored the opener after some great passing play, but striker Martin Pusic took the plaudits by scoring a second-half brace of headers. Heracles’ Joey Pelupessy scored a brilliant longshot late on, but it was no more than a consolation goal for the club that seems to be stuck mid-table. Sparta will be pleased with the three points, which moves them to 13th and 5 points clear of the relegation playoff spots.

Sunday

SC Heerenveen 1-2 Feyenoord

Feyenoord Rotterdam avoided upset Sunday afternoon to maintain their brilliant form in the Eredivisie this season. Heerenveen’s in-form striker Reza Ghoochannejhad dispatched a penalty inside 20 minutes that he earned himself after Miquel Nelom tripped him inside the box. Feyenoord weren’t going down without a fight, and it took only until the 55th minute for leading scorer Nicolai Jorgensen to bundle the ball into an open net. Tonny Vilhena finished off a man-of-the-match performance by striking a brilliant low shot into the bottom corner with perfect speed and placement. Heerenveen played brilliant on the day, but found themselves victim to the best team this season. Feyenoord continue to push for the title, while Heerenveen are still looking to recapture their best form to push them from 8th into a Europa League spot.

Go Ahead Eagles 1-3 PEC Zwolle

With Go Ahead Eagles languishing in last place, they needed a good performance to start their anti-relegation campaign. The home fans got just that when Pedro Chirivella tapped home a beautiful cross with only 2 minutes on the clock to send the stadium into a party. Unfortunately for them that ecstasy was short-lived as only 2 minutes later Queensy Menig tapped the ball past the dive of keeper Zwarthoed and side-footed the ball into the net at a tight angle. Both teams pushed for a winner for 78 minutes without reward, until Zwolle left-back Django Warmerdam found himself unchained on the wing and grooved a curling shot under the keeper to give the away side the lead. They weren’t done, however, and a mere five minutes later Bram van Polen calmly finished a penalty to ensure the three points traveled back to Zwolle. The result moved PEC Zwolle up to 11th in the table, while Go Ahead Eagles find themselves still at the bottom with only 7 matches remaining.

Excelsior 1-1 Ajax

The Amsterdammers faltered in what many would call a must-win on Sunday, dropping 2 points that puts them a full 6 behind the leaders Feyenoord. The home side was full of confidence to start the match, and young Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt saved a sure goal with his last-ditch slide tackle early on. The 17-year-old went from hero to villain in the 26th minute when he misplaced a pass in the box that gave Mike van Duinen an easy finish under the keeper. Upon further review, Ajax fullback Kenny Tete got a slight touch on the shot that would’ve just snuck wide of the post, so it was ruled an own goal. Ajax responded quickly when Hakim Ziyech’s cross missed everyone, including the goalkeeper, and young winger Justin Kluivert struck the ball into the open net. The Dutch prodigy’s first Eredivisie goal was gloomily overshadowed by the away side’s lackluster performance the rest of the way, though. Both sides had some great chances, with de Ligt getting his head on a corner that nearly snuck in under the crossbar, if it wasn’t for a brilliant save from Hahn. Kluivert went down early after halftime with a penalty claim that wasn’t given, and Daley Sinkgraven put an open header over the net in one of the better chances of the afternoon. Andre Onana was forced into a great save after Excelsior crossed past everyone, but the match ended with the early goals being the only ones to show for. Excelsior remain just outside the relegation zone in 15th, and Ajax find themselves a full 6 points behind Feyenoord. With Feyenoord traveling to Amsterdam next week, however, a win for Ajax would put them only 3 points behind with 6 match days left.

AZ Alkmaar 4-0 ADO Den Haag

In the final match of the weekend, AZ got back to winning ways by dismantling a struggling Den Haag side. Young winger Dabney dos Santos scored a 4-minute brace with goals in the 7th and 13th minutes, first hitting a shot off the bounce over the keeper and then scoring an open net with the Den Haag defense in absolute shambles. Joris van Overeem made it 3 before the half by chipping over the keeper after finding himself unmarked in the box. Fred Friday completed the rout in the second half by scoring a point-blank shot into the roof of the net on 60 minutes. The win moved AZ up to 5th with Utrecht in their sights, while ADO Den Haag’s defensive wreck has kept them in a relegation fight in 17th place.

Looking ahead to next week, PSV visit Sparta Rotterdam as they look to push past Ajax, while “De Klassieker” will be on show at the Amsterdam ArenA as Ajax and Feyenoord will battle it out for the top position. A win would put Ajax within reaching distance, but a good result for the away side will surely wrap-up any chance of an Ajax title.