It’s Match Week 33 in the Dutch Eredivisie, which means that there’s only one week left following Sunday’s fixtures. Every match kicked off at the same time on Sunday which gave teams no chance to adjust to other results around the country. A win for Feyenoord against a mid-table Excelsior would mean the Eredivisie title for the Rotterdam side. Ajax looked for a win against soon-to-be-relegated Go Ahead Eagles in Amsterdam to keep any hopes of a title challenge alive, and PSV hoped for an Ajax slip-up as they visited Groningen.
Ajax 4-0 Go Ahead Eagles
Ajax always seem to offer a bit of hope that the title is still within reach, only to have that hope snatched away. That’s how many Ajax fans felt coming into the match against Go Ahead Eagles on Sunday, knowing that a win was highly likely but any dropped points by Feyenoord was not. The Amsterdam side didn’t let that get to their heads, however, and a rotated Ajax side thoroughly defeated a lacklustre GAE side. In the 24th minute, a cleared corner found the foot of 17-year-old winger Justin Kluivert, who took a touch with his right foot and struck it low past the keeper from outside the box. A mere 5 minutes later, Brazilian winger David Neres made a great run into the centre of the pitch before sliding the ball through for forward Kasper Dolberg to neatly tuck the ball into the net. Following his halftime substitution, young midfielder Frenkie de Jong lunged at a Nick Viergever cross and headed it home in minute 48. In the 71st minute, de Jong dribbled past multiple GAE defenders, passed it to Kluivert on the byline, who crossed it into an unmarked substitute Mateo Cassierra to finish into the net. It was a convincing display by Ajax, who still have a shot at the title next weekend.
Excelsior 3-0 Feyenoord
The battle of two Rotterdam sides kicked off with the expectation that the league leaders were going to clinch the title for the first time in 18 years. The first half was a relatively even affair, but the second half was full of drama. About 10 minutes after halftime, Excelsior’s Nigel Hasselbaink found himself through on goal and slid the ball into the net. Only a few minutes later, Stanley Elbers bundled in a ball that fell in front of an open goal to give the home side a strong 2-goal lead. Excelsior finished off their rivals’ hopes of victory when, a mere 9 minutes after their first goal, lanky midfielder Ryan Koolwijk struck a beautiful free kick over the wall and into the left side of the net. The loss puts Feyenoord only one point above Ajax with one match left. Ladies and gentlemen, strap in.
Groningen 1-1 PSV
PSV confirmed their 3rd-place finish on Sunday by dropping points at Groningen. Mimoun Mahi continued his great form with an early goal for the Noord-Holland side; the forward struck a shot outside the box with his left and it found the bottom corner in the 11th minute. PSV dominated shots on target and possession throughout the match, but their breakthrough didn’t occur until substitute Sam Lammers headed in a poor clearance from Sergio Padt. That was the only mistake of the day for Padt, as his 12 saves held the Eindhoven side to a point. Groningen stay in 10th headed into week 34 and PSV cannot be overtaken by Utrecht or overtake Ajax, so they will have to settle for a 3rd-place finish instead of a 3rd-straight league title.
Roda 1-0 Willem II
Roda JC gained a crucial 3 points to keep them out of the relegation playoff zone. It was a well-contested match between the two sides, and it almost ended even. In the 90th minute, Martin Milec sent in a cross that leapt over the defence and onto the head of a racing Abdul Ajagun. The Roda fans jumped for joy as their side are now 2 points above a possible relegation heading into the last day. Willem II drop to 12th but aren’t in any danger of relegation.
Utrecht 1-0 Vitesse
Utrecht and Vitesse certainly looked like two top-of-the-table sides when they met on Sunday. Neither side could effectively break the other down until, similarly to Roda vs Willem, the last minute. In added time, Zakaria Labyad lifted a corner into the danger zone, where defender Willem Janssen leapt higher than everyone else and dispatched the ball into the net. The result doesn’t change Utrecht’s position as their 4th-place finish has been confirmed for quite some time, but Vitesse missed a chance to move up to 5th.
Heracles 4-0 ADO Den Haag
Heracles made a mockery of an in-form ADO side in Almelo yesterday. In the 5th minute, Brandley Kuwas sent in a ball over the top of Den Haag’s back line, which was chested down to a volleyed strike by Reuven Niemeijer, a strike that rocketed into the top of the net and in. Seven minutes later, Tim Breukers sent in a low cross to Niemeijer, who took his time to finish low into the bottom left of the goal for his brace. In the second half, Samuel Armenteros flicked the ball over himself, dribbled past two defenders, and finessed the ball into the top corner. In added time, Jaroslav Navratil passed a through-ball to Thomas Bruns, who responded by scoring Heracles’ fourth goal of the day. With the results above them in their favour, Heracles now have a shot at a European spot next weekend.
NEC Nijmegen 2-1 AZ
NEC ended their losing streak against a quality AZ side, but it wasn’t easy. Julian von Haacke dinked a ball over Tim Krul in the 11th minute to send the NEC supporters celebrating, but AZ equalised late in the half thanks to Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s technical finish into an open net. Unfortunately for the away side, Ridgeciano Haps’s 60th minute sending off proved to be their downfall. In the 88th minute, Lorenzo Burnet crossed the ball to Liverpool-loanee Taiwo Awoniyi to win the game. NEC are now 2 points behind Roda on the edge of the relegation playoff zone, while AZ are now in danger of being passed by Vitesse for 5th on the final day.
PEC Zwolle 2-1 Heerenveen
10-man Zwolle were able to upset Heerenveen on Sunday despite being a man down for over 70 minutes. In the 29th minute, Danny Holla scored a free kick over the Heerenveen wall to give the home side a lead, and after halftime, Queensy Menig stole the ball from Jerry St. Juste and finished to double their score. Reza Ghoochannejhad’s added time goal was no more than a consolation for Heerenveen, whose poor performance kept them outside the European places. Zwolle leapfrog Den Haag to 13th thanks to the inspired victory.
Sparta Rotterdam 1-0 Twente
Finally, relegation candidates Sparta upset European hopefuls Twente on a day filled to the brim with upsets. It was an evenly-contested match, but Sparta striker Martin Pusic’s 66th-minute goal made the difference. His chip over the keeper was surprising to many who know about Sparta’s horrible run of form recently, but it was enough to ensure a victory for the Rotterdam-based side. Sparta are, similarly to NEC, 2 points from freedom in the relegation playoffs, and Twente might be on their way out of the European playoffs if they aren’t careful next weekend.
In Holland on Sunday, it was a great day to be a home supporter, and (possibly) a great day to be an underdog’s supporter. Ajax’s win and Feyenoord’s slip-up means that next weekend will be the penultimate showdown between the nation’s most heated rivals. Ajax kick off away against Willem II, a side who has given them trouble in the past, while Feyenoord host in-form Heracles. It could shape up to be the most exciting final days in recent memory, so be sure to check BFTGT for my article next week!