Eredivisie review 33: Ajax win their 32nd league title
And we have a new champion! It’s the same one as last year! And the year before!
Ajax needed a win to seal the title in their own Amsterdam Arena and, as expected, they delivered. Overpowering last place Willem II 5-0, they clinched their third consecutive and 32nd league title overall and subsequently relegating their opponents of the day. The Amsterdammers took some time to get the show on the road though. Until the twelfth minute, to be exact. Ryan Babel assisted Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and the Icelandic remained cool and headed in at the front post, 1-0. Through Christian Eriksen’s shot which Willem II goalkeeper David Meul could only flap at and divert into the net, the half-time score of 2-0 was reached. In the second half, Viktor Fischer, Siem De Jong (who scored in his third consecutive ‘champions game’, a great statistic provided by Babette van Haaren) and Danny Hoesen made the scoreline as festive as the rest of the day: 5-0.
To make the day complete, their arch rivals Feyenoord blew their chances of reaching the Champions League qualifiers by losing 2-0 in Den Haag against ADO. It was their sixth away defeat of the season. The Rotterdammers looked lacklustre against the club from the residency, who now still have a shot at 8th, the fourth and last Europa League play-off spot. It was a game to forget for Feyenoord with captain Stefan De Vrij trotting off injured and topscorer Graziano Pelle missing a penalty. In between those two events, Mike van Duinen and Danny Holla (pen.) scored the goals for ADO Den Haag.
PSV seized upon the slip up by Feyenoord beating NEC 4-2 in what proved to be a rather strange affair. PSV were helped on their way by a Daan Bovenberg own goal and just before half-time, the tie seemed over after Toivonen gave the Eindhovenaren a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead. In the second half, five minutes of madness saw NEC come back through Nick van der Velden and Remy Amieux. With things square, the presumably worst man on the field until then, PSV-attacker Jeremain Lens put PSV ahead again, taking the rebound after a shot was spilled by Gabor Babos. Jurgen Locadia completed the rout, scoring the 4-2 in what proved to be a tidier game than necessary.
PSV unofficially clinched second place through the win, with not only Feyenoord but also Vitesse losing surprisingly. RKC Waalwijk were the ones who secured themselves of another season of Eredivisie football by beating the Arnhemmers 3-2. It all got off to good start for the Waalwijkers, with Robert Braber opening the score. In the 28th minute, experienced Nourdin Boukhari was stupidly sent off for arguing with the referee twice, receiving two yellow cards. RKC Waalwijk initially managed perfectly well with 10 against 11, with Mart Lieder scoring the 2-0 from an RKC-corner. Until then, Fred Rutten’s side were the only team not to have conceded from a corner yet in the Eredivisie (stat courtesy of Infostrada, pointed out to us by Simon Gleave). As expected, the eleven of Vitesse started to show some fight after the break and quickly the balance was restored through Jan Arie Van der Heijden and Mike Havenaar. A foul by experienced defender and Vitesse captain Geram Kashia ensured the 2-2 scoreline didn’t last long, with Sander Duits netting the eventually winning penalty (3-2).
The RKC faithful were allowed to celebrate their survival due to Roda JC losing to ‘the Lurling show ‘ in Breda. The 36-year-old of NAC Breda played one hell of a game, guiding his team from 1-3 down to a 5-3 win. Admittedly, he was lucky to be on the field after a horrendous challenge on Mitchell Donald with a 1-3 score on the board, but the ‘Dutch Ryan Giggs’ decided football was the solution to get his side the vital win they needed. Things looked gloomy for NAC in the start though, with Frank Demouge putting Roda JC up 0-1 within 3 minutes. Brazilian defender Botteghin drew NAC level, but Roda JC continued to press and a belter from distance by Bonevacia followed by a tap-in from Mitchell Donald was quite the blow for the ‘Geel-zwarten’ who looked clueless. Then Lurling stepped up. First he stepped on Donald, getting away with a foul, than he stepped up by scoring two terrific long distance shots and assisting Hooi and Ten Voorde for their respective goals. Lurling got a deserved standing ovation upon substitution from his manager in the end. The 5-3 means NAC are safe and Roda JC can prepare themselves for relegation play-offs.
The latter goes for VVV-Venlo too, who remain rooted in 17th place after drawing 0-0 with FC Groningen. The supporters of FC Groningen and VVV-Venlo could feel hard done by, their match was the only one without goals this weekend. In a torrid game, neither really deserved to win, although it was the Venlo faithful who could make more of a claim for three points then there opposite number. For FC Groningen it meant they moved up a spot, as SC Heerenveen lost their second home league game in a row. Belgian West Bromwich Albion loanee El Ghanassy put the Heerenveen side up after an assist by Icelandic sharpshooter Alfred Finnbogason, but a Jens Toornstra free kick restored the balance quickly. After a load of chances for the Friezen, it was FC Utrecht who brutally took the lead through a Mulenga header. A rare goal (from distance) by Jan Wuytens gave FC Utrecht a more comfortable lead. They were discomforted soon enough by another El Ghanassy-Finnbogason combo, with again the Belgian winger as the finisher. Mike Van der Hoorn then put the game beyond doubt for FC Utrecht, heading home another corner, 2-4.
FC Utrecht eclipsed FC Twente with the result, as they drew with Heracles Almelo in the ‘Twente derby’ 1-1. Promising midfielder Thomas Bruns put the home side a goal to the good, but it was marauding midfielder Leroy Fer who pulled FC Twente level. Heracles are now officially out of contention for the EL play-off spots, something that is already a certainty for FC Twente. If the standings remain as they are now, FC Utrecht will face SC Heerenveen and FC Twente will face FC Groningen. The four will battle for one remaining Europa League spot, as the one for the Dutch Cup is automatically rewarded to AZ, after PSV have ensured their place (unless Feyenoord win 37-0 and FC Twente beat PSV) in the Champions League preliminaries.
Even though AZ could rely on others to ensure their Europa League status for next season, their Eredivisie status wasn’t certain yet until this weekend. Both them and their opponents PEC Zwolle prolonged their stay in the Dutch top flight in the 33rd fixture of the league, one more stylish than the other. AZ beat PEC Zwolle comprehensively 4-0. The score was opened through Viktor Elm, who headed home a corner. Roy Beerens then smashed in a volley, making it 2-0 after the first half. In the second half. Aron Johansson scored his third goal in four matches for AZ and Dutch starlet Adam Maher completed the score 4-0 in what was most likely his last home league game for AZ . With this win, AZ do have a chance of reaching the Europa League play-offs through the competition as well. But one can forgive the AZ team for not turning up if they would beat PSV in the Dutch Cup Final on Thursday.