With the holiday season upon us, it is important to take a much-needed break from the hectic world of sport to reflect on the year past. However, if you know the Dutch then you know how much they love their football – which is why they were the only major European nation to play league matches on Christmas Eve. Keeping with the holiday spirit, there was no lack of emotion on the pitches of Holland last weekend. Enjoy the final Eredivisie roundup of 2017!
ADO Den Haag crush Zwolle
Seemingly never coming down from the early season high they’ve experienced, PEC Zwolle have maintained their phenomenal performances up to the halfway point in the season. Unluckily for them, though, ADO Den Haag don’t care much for Zwolle’s heartwarming story (what grinches!). The hosts from The Hague catapulted themselves into European contention with a massive 4-0 win on Friday – Zwolle’s worst defeat this season. Erik Falkenburg got ADO’s holidays started off right with a towering header from Abdenasser El Khayati’s corner in the 23rd minute.
— Wilfried Kanon (@WilfriedKanon) December 22, 2017
El Khayati turned provider once more on the stroke of halftime – from a set-piece on the left flank, the midfielder whipped in a cross to another headed goal, this one from Bjorn Johnsen. In the second half, Sheraldo Becker set up Falkenburg, who easily tapped in his brace, while Johnsen got a brace for himself ten minutes later – all but ending Zwolle’s hopes for getting a result from the match. Den Haag will be pleased to go into the winter break having jumped into 7th, while Zwolle can still take some solace in knowing that their European hopes are well and truly alive in fourth place.
Breda shock Utrecht to move out of relegation spots
NAC Breda took a tumultuous FC Utrecht by shock with a 3-1 win on Saturday, which was Utrecht’s first loss in nearly 2 months. Utrecht manager Erik ten Hag has been linked with the vacant Ajax position in recent days, but a loss like this surely won’t increase his value. Pablo Marí’s first half header gave the underdogs a deserved lead, and Thierry Ambrose’s goal in the 71st minute took the margin to two goals.
Minutes later, Cyriel Dessers halved the margin with a nice strike after Gyrano Kerk’s superb strength to evade a defender, but it was Breda who held on and even got a late goal for themselves – a magnificent free-kick from Angeliño in added time. With the win, NAC Breda find themselves one point safe from the relegation playoffs (a fine Christmas gift) and Utrecht remain in sixth.
Alkmaar come back against Heerenveen
An inconsistent SC Heerenveen nearly pulled off an upset away to AZ Alkmaar, but in the end the third-placed side prevailed. After a scoreless first half, Heerenveen’s Pelle van Amersfoort scored just a couple minutes after play resumed. AZ dominated the ball but couldn’t break through. That was, until Heerenveen’s Morten Thorsby was sent off for a second yellow card. The home side began pushing at the 10 men, and it paid off.
— AZ (@AZAlkmaar) December 24, 2017
In the 80th minute, Thomas Ouwejan’s cross nicked off Denzel Dumfries into the goal for an own goal, 1-1. It took only four minutes for AZ to grab the go-ahead goal – Guus Til’s cross found substitute striker Fred Friday, who scooped the ball over the ‘keeper into the roof of the net. With only minutes remaining, Jeremy Helmer got to the byline and crossed in front of the goalmouth, where Friday positioned himself well to grab a late brace and secure the three points for AZ. The result was in question, but AZ remain in third place going into the mid-season break. Heerenveen find themselves securely mid-table in ninth place – probably a deserved position for a side that has shown so much inconsistency.
PSV fight back to maintain gap at the top
Vitesse Arnhem nearly grasped a result away against PSV Eindhoven, but the league leaders did what they do best and found a way to get three points. A half-hour in, Lassana Faye’s brilliant long ball for the visitors found Bryan Linssen behind the PSV backline. The midfielder dinked the ball over Jeroen Zoet, allowing Tim Matavz to easily tap the ball across the line. Unfortunately for Vitesse (and Ajax), that lead wouldn’t hold.
In the 43rd minute, Hirving Lozano’s deep free-kick was sent into the box, where Vitesse’s high line allowed defender Daniel Schwaab to leap at the ball unmarked, sending it flying into the net. In the second half, it was Lozano who proved to be the difference between a draw and a win for PSV. The winger was given the ball at the top of the box and unleashed a cracking long shot over the sprawling Remko Pasveer (who, truth be told, could be held responsible for both goals). Hirving Lozano is one of the best players in the Eredivisie, and he proved that to be true in an immense win this weekend.
Excelsior and Twente end 2017 with drab draw
Excelsior and FC Twente kicked off the holiday festivities with, well, nothing much. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw in a battle between two sides who often struggle to finish chances. Twente will perhaps be happy that they’ve created somewhat of a buffer between them and dead-last Roda JC (four points), but are still only in 16th. Excelsior go into the break in 12th and are probably hoping to move a little further up the table come January.
Groningen thrash struggling Sparta
A manager-less Sparta Rotterdam were at the whims of FC Groningen, who took the relegation candidates to school in the second half. After a scoreless first half, Lars Veldwijk coolly slotted in Groningen’s first goal after being unleashed by Oussama Idrissi. In the 74th minute, a poor clearance allowed Mimoun Mahi to find space in Sparta’s box, where he crossed to Tom van Weert, who kicked the ball past Roy Kortsmit.
— FC Groningen (@fcgroningen) December 24, 2017
Later, Juninho Bacuna’s cross failed to be cleared by Sparta’s centre-halves, and Sparta defender Frederik Holst mistakenly hit the ball into his own net. Groningen rubbed salt into Sparta’s hypothetically gaping wounds when Ritsu Doan scored a late goal to up the score to 4-0. Groningen remain in thirteenth, while second-to-last Sparta have lost an ugly five matches in a row. Not the best taste to leave in your mouth heading into the winter break.
Ajax come back against Willem II
A lackadaisical AFC Ajax were forced to come from behind against Willem II at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Christmas Eve, days after firing the recently-appointed Marcel Keizer in a shocking move. After a scoreless first half, Willem II defender Konstantinos Tsimikas’ cross evaded the entire Ajax backline, ending up at the feet of Fran Sol. The striker fired past André Onana to give the visitors a surprising lead in the 53rd minute. Ajax were a let down, but thankfully for the Amsterdammers, their wingers were certainly not.
Minutes later, young left-winger Justin Kluivert cut inside on his right foot and fired a blistering shot into the top-right corner of the net. In the 72nd minute, right-winger David Neres beat his man with some skillful dribbling, and his cross in front of the goalmouth allowed Kasper Dolberg to easily convert the go-ahead goal. Ajax put the result out of question in the 81st minute – Siem de Jong smartly backheeled to (a slightly offside) Neres, who calmly slid the ball into the gaping net. Despite the wrongly allowed goal, it was a performance to behold from David Neres.
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) December 24, 2017
The win means Ajax remain only five points adrift atop the Eredivisie, and they know a slip-up from PSV may occur in the weeks following the winter break. Willem II remain down in 14th, but their performances of late may lead some of their supporters to believe a second half-season push could see them up in mid-table.
Thy hat trick shoots VVV over Heracles
VVV-Venlo managed to leap over Heracles Almelo in the table after a brilliant performance by German striker Lennart Thy. The Player of the Week curled in his first goal in the 17th minute, finding space atop the box and unleashing a finessed shot. Heracles equalized ten minutes later through Reuven Niemeijer’s penalty, but that would be the visitors’ final goal. In the 54th minute, Vito van Crooij’s long ball gave Thy plenty of space to fire in the go-ahead goal. Finally, in the 76th minute, Lennart Thy latched onto Clint Leemans’ long ball and fired past the ‘keeper at a difficult angle to complete his hat trick, as well as VVV’s victory.
— VVV-Venlo (@VVVVenlo) December 24, 2017
Feyenoord crush Roda JC
Champions Feyenoord Rotterdam got their second-straight victory by a large margin by defeating Roda JC 5-1 on Sunday. With less than a minute played, Nicolai Jørgensen found himself with the ball only yards out from goal, turned, and fired into the net to send De Kuip into a Christmas Eve celebration. In the 4th minute, Sam Larsson held the ball up following an interception and, spotting the run of Jens Toornstra, sent a low cross across the box to allow the midfielder to smash the ball into the roof of the net – 2-0.
— Feyenoord Rotterdam (@Feyenoord) December 24, 2017
Roda’s Simon Gustafson – on-loan from Feyenoord, ironically – scored a free header to halve the deficit after the halftime break, but Feyenoord came right back only minutes later. A deflection on Tonny Vilhena’s cut-back gifted an easy chance to Jørgensen. With a minute of regulation time left, Jørgensen’s cross was dummied by Sofyan Amrabat, fooling the Roda defenders and allowing Steven Berghuis an easy tap in. In added time, Sam Larsson and Berghuis were two-on-one with the ‘keeper, and the Swede decided to give Berghuis the quick brace to complete the score at 5-1. Feyenoord still have lots of ground to make up in 5th, and Roda must improve after the winter break (dead last).
Player of the Week: Lennart Thy (VVV) – 3 Goals, 3 Shots, 3 Tackles, 47 Touches
Match of the Week: PSV Eindhoven 2-1 Vitesse Arnhem
Disappointment of the Week: PEC Zwolle – 4-0 loss to ADO Den Haag
The Eredivisie table heading into the winter break. PSV leading the way while Roda JC sit bottom on goal difference. pic.twitter.com/OSOtjAHQmv
— Dutch Football 🇳🇱 (@FootballOranje_) December 24, 2017