Eredivisie Roundup: Ajax defeat sees PSV comfortably top

Eredivisie

Vrijdag

Drab draw between Sparta and Heerenveen

A pre-season favorite for a European spot for many pundits, SC Heerenveen have hit an extremely poor run of form. This form certainly continued on Friday, as a visit to Sparta Rotterdam produced only a 0-0 draw. Stijn Schaars had a good chance in the first half as Heerenveen broke down the home side’s defence on the counter, but his long shot was actually blocked by teammate Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Sparta’s opportunity came through substitute Ragnar Ache, but his header was cleared off the line by Schaars. There was very little discrepancy between the teams’ styles either – though Heerenveen aggressively pressed at times, both sides nearly always ended up launching balls forward. Heerenveen have dropped down the table once again, to 10th-place. On the other hand, Sparta have risen a couple spots to thirteenth.


Zaterdag

AZ overcome Willem II

High-flying AZ Alkmaar managed to squeeze by Willem II during Saturday’s early match. The visitors from Tilburg broke the ice, though, through on-loan AZ player Ben Rienstra got his head to a fantastic Freek Heerkens cross 25 minutes in. AZ’s Wout Weghorst won a penalty nine minutes later, which was calmly converted by Iranian star Alireza Jahanbakhsh. The home side continued to push on in the second half – Weghorst’s brilliant flick-on in the 54th minute gave space to Guus Til to fire in the leading goal.

A failed interception by Willem II’s defense left Weghorst open in front of goal, and he chipped over the keeper to take the score to 3-1 in the 64th minute. Ismail Azzaoui scored a fantastic solo goal in the 85th minute to make the game closer for Willem, but it turned out to be no more than a consolation goal. Unfortunately for AZ, Weghorst received his second yellow card for a handball late in the match and will be suspended for their next match against Roda JC.


Excelsior beat 10-man Roda

Bottom-of-the-league Roda JC fell victim to a narrow defeat in Rotterdam against Excelsior. The visiting team was playing well through the first half, but in the 35th minute, Roda’s Mikhail Rosheuvel was sent off for a nasty challenge. Excelsior clearly capitalised off this man advantage – Luigi Bruins played a great one-two with Ali Messaoud in the box before scoring a low shot.

Excelsior pretty much controlled the match from then on, and Bruins had his penalty saved in the second half that would’ve increased the margin of victory. Excelsior remain in seventh with the victory, but Roda still languish at the bottom of the league in eighteenth.


Heracles edge out struggling Groningen

Facing plenty of criticism over recent weeks, FC Groningen failed to win once again on Saturday, this time losing 2-1 to Heracles Almelo. In the 14th minute, Brandley Kuwas’ persistence saw Reuven Neimeijer find plenty of space in the box to score the first goal of the night. However, Groningen won a penalty late in the first half due to a hand-ball, which was converted by Lars Veldwijk.

Both teams played well, but Kuwas won a penalty in the 81st minute and Jeff Hardeveld placed it in the top corner to claim all three points for the home team. Heracles jump up once again, this time to ninth in the table. Groningen have hit a rough patch of form, dropping again from 14th to 15th.


VVV and NAC play out 0-0 draw

The Eredivisie’s two newly-promoted sides, VVV-Venlo and NAC Breda, couldn’t be separated in their first meeting since the Jupiler League last season. Breda managed four shots on target to VVV’s zero, but a largely placid match ended with no goals. VVV remain in twelfth place, while NAC stay in 17th – a relegation playoff spot.


Zondag

Feyenoord fail to win once again

Sunday’s early match saw champions Feyenoord fail to win for a fourth-consecutive week in the Eredivisie, only managing a 2-2 draw at ADO Den Haag. Feyenoord’s Nicolai Jørgensen scored the first goal from a header within four minutes, but the lead didn’t last until halftime. In the 44th minute, a quick passing play from the home side ended with Aaron Meijers scoring a great left-footed goal to even the score.

In the 55th minute, a smart ADO corner routine was completed when defender Wilfried Kanon headed into an open net – 2-1. Feyenoord came back firing on all cylinders, but were only able to score one goal. In the 86th minute, Sam Larsson played through an overlapping Karim El Ahmadi, who struck a sweet low shot to level the score. Feyenoord couldn’t find a winner, and remain in sixth place. ADO drop to eleventh despite the positive result.


Utrecht leave Amsterdam with three points

AFC Ajax weren’t able to take any points against their bogey-team, FC Utrecht, on Sunday. The visitors went right for the jugular, missing a few early chances before Zakaria Labyad scored on the counter. Ajax persisted throughout the half without conceding another, and all seemed well in the 41st minute when Nick Viergever’s lunging goal (reminiscent of last season’s Europa League goal) equalized the score.

Both teams looked like scoring the winning goal, but it was Utrecht who came out on top. A poor giveaway by Ajax coupled with atrocious marking in the box gave Labyad an easy look at goal, and he easily slotted past André Onana. The loss sees Ajax remain in 2nd place, but the margin between them and PSV has grown to 8 points. Utrecht remain in eighth despite the quality victory.


Zwolle held by Vitesse in Arnhem

Vitesse were able to hold in-form PEC Zwolle to a 0-0 draw on Sunday in a very tight affair. Both sides had good chances to take all three points from the match, but were inseparable in the end. Zwolle, who remain in third place, have had a fine season but may feel hard done to not claim all three points against an inconsistent Vitesse side. Vitesse, on the other hand, should feel pleased to come out of this with a point, despite the good chances they created. The home side remain in fifth with the draw.


PSV sneak by Twente with late drama

League leaders PSV Eindhoven claimed all three points against Twente in an extremely nerve-racking match to go eight points clear at the top of the league. In the fourteenth minute, Steve Bergwijn’s interception and pass created an opportunity for Jürgen Locadia to score, which he did calmly. Quite surprisingly, the visitors responded with a goal of their own – Stefan Thesker headed in a 21st minute corner to equalize.

There was action but no goals until the 61st minute, when Marco van Ginkel sank a penalty to regain PSV the lead. Twente equalized once more in the 68th minute thanks to Thomas Lam, whose shot snuck underneath the outstretched arms of Jeroen Zoet. Minutes later, Luuk de Jong ended his goal drought with a header to make the score 3-2, but Twente youngster Fredrik Jensen’s longshot in the 75th minute once again drew the visitors level. It wasn’t until added time that the sides were separated for good – Locadia raced to the touchline, crossed near post, and Twente’s Thesker unfortunately poked it into his own net.

A fantastic ending to an exciting weekend of Dutch football means that PSV are now, as mentioned before, 8 points clear of Ajax at the top of the Eredivisie. Twente will certainly feel hard done by the loss, and are now down to 14th in the table.


 

Player of the Week: Zakaria Labyad (UTR) – 2 goals, 2 shots on woodwork, 2 key passes

Match of the Week: PSV – 4-3 victory over Twente

Disappointment of the Week: SC Heerenveen – 0-0 draw at Sparta