Eredivisie Roundup: Champions crumble as race for Europe heats up

Eredivisie

Zaterdag

Resurgent Roda edge Breda in added time

A match between two relatively weak sides was shaping up to be a pretty drab 0-0 draw as Roda and NAC Breda advanced into added time. Makeshift centre-half Adil Auassar whipped a deep free-kick that couldn’t be handled by the Breda keeper to grant Roda JC the late victory.

Many will claim that Roda deserved the three points regardless, but it was a tight match that NAC will feel disappointed in losing. The win lifts Roda JC up to 16th, still inside the relegation playoff zone, while Breda remain 14th.


Ajax regain confidence in Sparta drubbing

Sparta Rotterdam’s losing streak extends to four matches at the hands of Ajax – the second time in a row the Amsterdammers ran away with a 4-0 victory. While I would argue that this performance was much more deserving of that scoreline than the one against Heerenveen, it was two own-goals which granted Ajax a 2-0 lead. The first, in the 39th minute, came from a Lasse Schøne corner that cannoned off Ryan Sanusi’s leg and in. Later, in the 64th minute, David Neres’ cross to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on a counter was deflected off Sparta defender Sherel Floranus’ chest into an open net.

The two own goals apparently unshackled the Ajax squad as De Godenzonen proceeded to score two more in a matter of 12 minutes. Hakim Ziyech’s smart pass unlocked Neres to dribble into open space and blast a shot into the roof of the net. Three minutes later, the deflections kept going Ajax’s way as Ziyech’s long shot glanced against the back of Amin Younes and looped into the goal, 4-0. The goals weren’t beautiful – Kasper Dolberg even missed a penalty late on – but the performance certainly deserved a 4-0 score line.

The victory lifts Ajax all the way to second place following some strange results (covered later in the article) on sixteen points. Sparta Rotterdam find themselves in last place on only five points, with many media members predicting that manager Alex Pastoor may find himself struggling to keep his job if results continue this way.


Zwolle show strength in draw at De Kuip

For the first time since 1989, PEC Zwolle took a trip to Feyenoord’s De Kuip and left without losing. An experimental front line for Feyenoord saw winger Jean-Paul Boëtius deployed in the striker role, but it came to no avail. The home side pinned back the opposing players with strong play down the wing, but PEC held out and the match ended in a 0-0 draw.

The draw sees Feyenoord drop from second to third, trailing both PSV and Ajax for the first time in quite a while. Despite the great result, Zwolle still drop from fourth to fifth due to how tight everyone at the top of the table is to each other. Nevertheless, it’s still a great position for PEC Zwolle at this stage of the season.


Utrecht resurgent over strong Heerenveen

Heerenveen’s second defeat of the season (and second in a row) comes thanks to Erik ten Hag’s FC Utrecht. The visiting Superfriezen started well – Stijn Schaars’ 23’ free-kick floated across goal and nestled in the net, 0-1. Only three minutes later, Utrecht’s Yassin Ayoub responded with a beautiful free-kick of his own to draw the sides level. Before halftime, Utrecht took the lead thanks to Jean-Christophe Bahebeck’s fantastic run and low finish.

In the second half, Utrecht full-back Robin van der Meer sent in a cross to Bahebeck, who lofted the ball with his head into the net, 3-1. Despite conceding a majority of possession to the visitors, Utrecht held on against a threatening Heerenveen squad. It’s Utrecht’s first win since Game Week 4 and lifts them up two spots to eighth. Heerenveen drop from fifth to sixth, still a respectable spot with a very good chance at a top-of-the-table finish.


Zondag

Honors even with late goals at Polman Stadion

An underperforming Heracles Almelo looked set to escape with a home victory over a fortified Vitesse Arnhem in Sunday’s early match, but a late goal from the Vitas saw the affair end in a draw. With little more than a quarter hour to play, Kristoffer Peterson’s header found the back of the net to give Heracles a surprising lead, mostly thanks to Brandley Kuwas’ inspirational cross.

Heracles looked the stronger side on the day, but Vitesse kept pushing for an equalizer. In the 87th minute, Milot Rashica’s cross was let to bounce in the box before Bryan Linssen controlled it and struck a low shot past the outstretched Bram Castro. Both sides will probably be upset with how the results elsewhere played out, as Heracles drop from 12th to 13th and Vitesse from third to fourth. With a European tie this week, it’s important that Vitesse don’t further drop down the table – something I predicted could be a danger.


Willem show flashes of brilliance in Tilburg

FC Twente fell victim to Willem II in what probably should’ve been at least a draw for the Tukkers. In the 39th minute, Twente were awarded a penalty that was dispatched coolly by Oussama Assaidi. Twente couldn’t hold onto the lead until half time though, as Fran Sol headed in an added time equaliser from Jop van der Linden’s corner. In the second half, Sol’s strong header was saved but Ismail Azzaoui knocked in the rebound to take the lead.

Twente pushed forth but couldn’t find a goal. In added time, as Willem looked to exploit space left in the opposition half, Konstantinos Tsimikas’ cross found Fran Sol open in front of net for an easy tap-in, 3-1. Fran Sol, a former Real Madrid youth prospect, looks like the man who could lead Willem away from relegation. Sunday was a good start for just that; Willem lift up from last place to 17th on six points. Twente remain in 15th, though they’re also just on six points.


PSV persist over pesky Venlo side

VVV-Venlo looked on track to upset the Eredivisie’s leading side, PSV Eindhoven, on Sunday before a second half capitulation. In-form striker Jürgen Locadia gave PSV the lead on 23 minutes after a cool layoff by Luuk de Jong and low, hard strike. However, things turned dark for the away side as VVV youngster Clint Leemans converted a penalty five minutes until halftime. VVV didn’t let up the pressure after the break neither – Vito van Crooij’s short cross left winger Torino Hunte open to prod a soft volley past Jeroen Zoet, 2-1 VVV.

Trailing to a newly promoted side, Phillip Cocu’s men decided to shift back to first gear. In the 58th, Gaston Pereiro scored a Robben-esque screamer: freeing himself from three yellow-shirted defenders and firing a left-footed strike into the bottom corner. About 10 minutes later, following VVV defender Jerold Promes’ sending off, a PSV corner found its way to Daniel Schwaab, who tapped in a goal to take the lead from close range. 18-year-old Mauro Junior became the first Brazilian to score on his PSV debut since Ronaldo with a simple strike following a rebound. Gaston Pereiro finished off a brilliant performance with a header during a scramble in the box to make the final score line 2-5.

The Eindhoven giants are in fine form, with a points total to show for it – five points clear of Ajax at the top. After the defeat, VVV drop from seventh to ninth.


Groningen lucky to claim point against AZ Alkmaar

AZ Alkmaar were certainly the more dominant side in Groningen on Sunday, indicated by the eight shots on target and overall control of the ball. It wasn’t until added time in the first half that the away side got their goal – a well-struck long shot by Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh. However, Groningen responded after the break by scoring a penalty by Mimoun Mahi, although goalkeeper Marco Bizot nearly saved it.

Groningen managed to hold on until the final whistle, but both sides will probably have wanted to win the three points. AZ move into a European spot with the win (8th to 7th), but Groningen continue to struggle in mid-table, now down in twelfth.


Excelsior claim crucial triumph against 10-men Den Haag

ADO Den Haag couldn’t prevent Excelsior Rotterdam from leap-frogging De Ooievaars in the final event of Match Week 8. Excelsior scored early on, in the 7th minute, in a play beginning with Luigi Bruins’ incisive passing. Ryan Koolwijk latched onto the pass, dragging out ADO’s keeper before a low cross to Jinty Caenepeel put the away side up early. ADO winger Edouard Duplan received a second yellow card in only the 26th minute, but Sheraldo Becker scored a leveling goal minutes later.

It took until the 81st minute, but Excelsior capitalized on the man advantage in the end. A well-worked passing play within ADO’s box ended with a cutback to midfielder Hicham Faik, whose long shot nestled into the bottom right corner. Excelsior’s victory lifts them from 13th to 10th while ADO Den Haag drop from 9th to 11th.


Player of the Week: Gaston Pereiro (PSV) – 2 goals, 6 key passes, 5/5 dribbles completed

Result of the Week: PEC Zwolle – 0-0 draw at Feyenoord’s De Kuip

Disappointment of the Week: Jerold Promes (VVV) & Edouard Duplan (Excelsior) – both sending offs cost their teams on the day

After the dust settles following a weekend of drama and goals, a much different Eredivisie table emerges. PSV are now firmly on top after Feyenoord, Vitesse, Zwolle, and Heerenveen all drop points, but Ajax’s victory lifts them all the way to second-place. It’s extremely close at the top of the table – only three points separate Ajax (2nd) and Utrecht (8th). There isn’t much room for error at the bottom either, as 12th place Groningen find themselves only four points clear of dead-last Sparta Rotterdam.

It’s shaping up to be one heck of a season in the Netherlands.