Much hype was awarded to the match-up between Ajax and Feyenoord, and Ajax delivered a win that makes the title race as interesting as ever. Some quality teams continued to struggle, while two games changed the course of the relegation battle at the bottom. Did your favourite team come out as victors?
AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Groningen
The weekend kicked off on Saturday with a struggling Groningen making the trek west to Alkmaar, where they were greeted by an AZ squad with European aspirations. Goalkeepers Tim Krul (AZ) and Sergio Padt (Groningen) proved to be the best players on the night, with the men between the sticks making 5 and 6 saves, respectively. Padt made the headlines with a spectacular double-save before halftime to keep AZ off the scoresheet in a game where AZ largely dominated with no reward. That’s not to say Groningen were poor; Mimoun Mahi saw all four of his shots on target stopped well by AZ’s on-loan keeper from Newcastle. AZ will be disappointed with the dropped points, moving them down to 6th. The North Hollanders will be thanking their lucky stars, or goalkeeper, for salvaging a point to remain in 12th.
PEC Zwolle 1-1 Excelsior
PEC Zwolle looked to push up the table when they met with relegation-battling Excelsior. The away side were confident following their victory over Ajax last weekend, but it was Zwolle who struck the first blow. Django Warmerdam, on loan from Ajax, scored for the second-straight game with a thundering long shot that found its way into the bottom corner in the 26th minute. Zwolle’s lead lasted all but 8 minutes; Luigi Bruins skipped past a sliding defender and deftly shot the ball into the opposite corner, under the keeper, following a superbly delivered through-ball by Mike van Duinen. The second half didn’t provide much viewing pleasure, and the match ended in a draw. Zwolle remain in 11th while Excelsior will be ecstatic with a point that keeps them out of the relegation playoff places in 15th.
Sparta Rotterdam 0-2 PSV Eindhoven
PSV kept themselves within shouting distance of the Eredivisie title by running over an in-form Sparta in Rotterdam Saturday. Jürgen Locadia struck a superb long shot low and into the bottom corner of Sparta’s goal following a cleared corner in the 21st minute. There was nearly an equaliser in the 33rd minute when PSV keeper Jeroen Zoet completely miskicked a clearance, but Jerson Cabral’s effort hit the side netting. PSV doubled their lead when a lofted through-ball wasn’t controlled by Rick van Drongelen, allowing Marco van Ginkel to race to the byline, round the keeper, and slot a goal between two defenders. Van Ginkel has really found his scoring boots in the Eredivisie once again, with 5 goals in 9 appearances. The win put PSV above Ajax (for the time being) and only 5 points behind Feyenoord for the title race. Sparta stay in 13th, only 3 points ahead of the relegation playoffs.
Heracles 4-1 Heerenveen
Heerenveen continued their slide on Saturday with their third straight loss, this time a thrashing at the hands of Heracles. The second-highest goal scorer in the league, Reza Ghoochannejhad, put Heerenveen up after 5 minutes by sending Bram Castro the wrong way on his penalty. That’s Reza’s 16th goal this season, only 3 behind Nicolai Jørgensen. The home side was quick to respond, with a Brandley Kuwas cross finding a sliding Reuven Niemeijer to make it 1-1 in the 9th minute. The score was reversed in Heracles’ favour in the 20th minute thanks to Samuel Armenteros’ beautifully dinked free kick that cleared the Heerenveen wall and found the top corner. Heracles turned the game into a free-kick showcase only minutes later; Brandley Kuwas struck a superb set-piece shot from way outside the box that flew into the top-right corner like a rocket. Heerenveen looked frustrated after giving away the lead in such a fashion, and this frustration came to an apex in the 31st minute as young defender Jerry St. Juste was sent off for a second yellow card. Heracles finished off the match with a perfect corner routine that resulted in Kuwas’ cross being headed in by Kristoffer Peterson. Kuwas literally didn’t put a foot wrong all match, earning him a 10/10 rating on WhoScored. Heerenveen didn’t put up much a fight in the second half, being a man down, and suffered a miserable defeat to keep them in 8th. Heracles leapfrogged Willem to go to 9th, only three points behind Heerenveen.
FC Utrecht 2-0 Willem II
Utrecht’s French target man Sébastian Haller put high-flying Utrecht up 1-0 inside 10 minutes at the Stadion Galgenwaard from a beautiful Kevin Conboy cross. Utrecht’s defence proved immense for the rest of the match, holding Willem to only 1 shot on target despite possession being even between the sides. On-loan striker Richairo Zivkovic came off the bench for Utrecht to poke home a late goal to seal the game after Sofyan Amrabat struck both posts with his curling shot. Third place is out of reach for Utrecht, but they are looking to secure a solid 4th place finish to end the season. Willem II moved down, from 9th to 10th, but will still be satisfied with their Eredivisie position at this point.
Vitesse 2-1 NEC Nijmegen
Vitesse looked to solidify their spot in the Europa League qualifying spots against a weaker NEC side on Sunday, but it took a while for them to break down the visitors. Lewis Baker’s curled free-kick found the diving head of Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the 51st minute to put the yellow and black up 1-0. Second-half substitute Ferdi Kadioglu struck a beautiful top corner shot to tie up the game on 66 minutes. That’s the 17-year-old’s 3rd goal of the season; he’s one of the most highly-thought-of youngsters in Holland at the moment. Vitesse pushed to find a winner and avoid defeat, a winner that they found thanks to van Wolfswinkel’s penalty after a handball in the box. NEC’s keeper Joris Delle was very close to getting a hand on the low strike, but the ball snuck into the bottom corner and Vitesse celebrated going ahead. The game stayed that way until the final whistle confirmed Vitesse’s rise from 7th to 5th in the table. NEC stay 14th, looking behind them with a relegation battle possibly forthcoming.
ADO Den Haag 4-1 Roda JC
Roda travelled to The Hague in what was sure to be a thrilling relegation battle, as Den Haag were a point behind Roda at the time. The home side wasted no time in going ahead, with Sheraldo Becker slotting the ball in at an acute angle in the first minute of action. Roda defender Chris Kum was adjudged to handle the ball inside the box, resulting in Abdenasser El Khayati dispatching a penalty to put Den Haag up by 2 within half an hour. Japanese striker Mike Havenaar bundled home a rebound in the second half to put the game out of reach. With the game all but finished in the 87th minute, Guyon Fernandez headed home a Randy Wolters cross to make it 4-0. Mohamed El Makrini curled home a beautiful long shot for the away side a couple minutes later, but it was no more than a consolation goal. ADO moved up to 16th, while Roda fell to 18th: the automatic relegation spot.
Ajax 2-1 Feyenoord
De Klassieker. What more is there to say? Ajax started the match 6 points behind Feyenoord at the top of the table, knowing that a win would have their arch rivals shaking in their boots. Brazilian winger David Neres started his first Eredivisie match, but experienced Dane Lasse Schøne was the hero of Amsterdam to start the match. He won a free-kick with only seconds having been played, stepped up to take the 30-meter shot and drilled it into the crossbar and in. The Arena went nuts; a perfect start to the biggest game of the season. Feyenoord didn’t offer anything in terms of attacking play, partially down to Golden Boot frontrunner Nicolai Jørgensen being forced to leave the pitch after 10 minutes with an injury. Ajax got another goal in the 36th minute, and who else than full-debutant David Neres? Hakim Ziyech crossed in a beautiful low ball to the far post and a wide-open Neres in front of an open net. The game was largely controlled by Ajax for the rest of the game; Bertrand Traoré missed multiple clear-cut chances for the home side that would’ve put the game to bed. Substitute Michiel Kramer scored a great goal in added time for Feyenoord, but the away side’s hopes of a comeback had perished long ago. Ajax won De Klassieker and halved Feyenoord’s lead at the top in the process.
Twente 1-2 Go Ahead Eagles
Go Ahead Eagles gained a crucial three points in the final Sunday match, but had to work hard to get them. Enes Ünal continued his great season on loan from Man City as the Twente striker slotted into an open net right before halftime. Twente dominated possession throughout, but young striker Sam Hendriks latched onto Marcel Ritzmaier’s cross to equalise in the 53rd minute. Ritzmaier got on the scoresheet himself later in the second half, with a free-kick from a ridiculous distance that took a bounce over Twente keeper Nick Marsman and in. The atrocious error from Marsman proved to be costly for the Enschede club, sending them down to 7th. Go Ahead Eagles climbed out of the automatic relegation spot to overtake Roda JC, but only on goal differential.
There was certainly a lot of excitement in the Eredivisie this weekend, with the highlight obviously being the Ajax/Feyenoord duel. The win sets up a potentially spectacular finish to the season, with PSV’s victory ensuring they still have a shot at the title. Relegation fighters had an exciting weekend too, with Roda seemingly coming out with the short end of the stick. Vitesse and Utrecht proved why they deserve to be playing European football next season, while AZ and Heerenveen are struggling to stay at the top of the table. Next week’s games take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so Dutch Football fans don’t need to wait long to see their favourite sides take the pitch once more. Keep an eye on Ajax vs AZ and Feyenoord vs Go Ahead Eagles, with both matches crucial to the home sides’ title hopes.