Eredivisie review week 31: PSV & Feyenoord cut Ajax’s lead to four points

Lots of surprises, odd results, drama, action, you name it –  this weekend had it all from start to finish. The excitement kicked off in the Amsterdam ArenA, where likely champions Ajax kicked off against SC Heerenveen. An early penalty shout from Ajax was dismissed, but in the 26th minute, a Viktor Fischer put the Amsterdam club in front. Ajax looked comfortable, but were shocked in the second half by none other than Alfred Finnbogason, who netted his 24th league goal of the campaign. The Icelandic striker was on the end of a Sven Kums assist. Both teams had chances to win it but Moisander and El Ghanassy missed chances for their respective clubs.  The 1-1 was an excellent result for the Frisians, who remain seventh. They did though lose Serbian playmaker Filip Djuricic to injury in the first half.

Feyenoord picked up all three points from their clash with fellow contenders for second place Vitesse (2-0), who proved that without Wilfried Bony and Marco van Ginkel, they are a very toothless side. Vitesse’s talisman Bony picked up an injury in midweek and he didn’t travel with the team, which meant Jonathan Reis lead the line and Davy Pröpper slotted into midfield. The Rotterdam side dominated the game but their opening goal came in controversial circumstances. Tomas Kalas’ hands were raised as he closed down Graziano Pelle’s shot, but despite the ball only hitting his face,  the referee pointed to the spot anyway. Pelle then stepped up and slammed in his 23rd goal of the season. Bas Nijhuis came out afterwards and admitted he had erred.

Vitesse severely lacked attacking potency and had absolutely no reply for Feyenoord who doubled their lead five minutes into the second period. The hosts charged forward on the counter attack and Pelle received the ball in the middle of the park and played it wide to Ruben Schaken. The winger cut in past Patrick van Aanholt and unleashed a shot which was blocked. The rebound bounced towards the backpost and into the path of Lex Immers, who smashed it home to secure the win.

Saturday’s late kick-off saw PSV ease past AZ (1-3). PSV were totally dominant from the very beginning of the game. Dick Advocaat’s side deservedly went ahead ten minutes before the break through a Mark van Bommel wonderstrike. The veteran midfielder blasted a free-kick straight into the top corner, sending it screaming into the net at a speed of 63 mph/102 kmh. PSV’s superiority was clear and they went two goals ahead just before the hour mark when Kevin Strootman squared to Dries Mertens on the edge of the box and the Belgian winger tapped in for goal number 14 of the season. Four minutes later, ex-AZ striker Jeremain Lens killed the game off when Etienne Reijnen kindly returned his misplaced pass, proceeding to fire low past Esteban after cutting inside. AZ’s only threat came from Adam Maher, who played a key part in his side pulling a late goal back. Aron Johannsson passed to him on the edge of the box and the teenager then sent it wide to Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The Icelandic player knocked it across the face of goal to his compatriot Johannsson who rounded off the lovely team move with a tidy finish.

Heerenveen’s lead over FC Groningen was reduced to mere goal difference. As expected, the Groningers didn’t beat ADO Den Haag with an eight goal or more margin. However, two very similar assists from Slovenian right winger Andraz Kirm meant Groningen were up 2-0 at half-time, as Genero Zeefuik and David Texeira headed home. With Groningen looking comfortable and in the driving seat, a strong tackle on Dico Koppers by Virgil Van Dijk saw the latter sent off with a red card in the 64th minute. To add to Groningen’s misery, Kevin Jansen pulled one back for ADO ten minutes later, curling in a pass by Tjaronn Cherry. Five minutes before time, Jansen was sent off with a second yellow after arguing with the referee. The game ended 2-1 and saw Groningen open up a six point gap on ADO.

Meanwhile, Heracles overtook ADO and boosted their chances of a play-off spot by hammering RKC 4-0 at home. RKC started the game the brighter of the two sides but failed to convert their chances and were soon made to pay for their sloppiness up front. Guy Ramos brought down Fragan Paljic on the edge of the box and Kwame Quansah scored the ensuing penalty. Heracles’ lead was doubled 20 minutes later when Marko Vejinovic’s first time shot beat Jeroen Zoet after some good play from Everton and Thomas Bruns. Vejinovic then turned provider, combining with Everton on two occasions in the final 20 minutes to provide two goals. Firstly, Everton slammed it into the roof of the net after Vejinovic cut back from the right wing. The midfielder then played a fantastic pass to the forward who then brought it inside with his first touch and sent it curling it into the top corner.

Meanwhile, NEC didn’t do their chances on Europa League play-offs any good, losing the #NECPEC-hashtag-derby versus PEC Zwolle 1-3. Younnes Mokhtar opened the score for Zwolle in the 18th minute. Only five minutes later, a typical ‘but he never meant it!’-moment for Fred Benson occured, as a Zwolle-corner hit him and saw the ball fall into the back of the NEC net. After a terrible first half, NEC tried to get back into it and they were rewarded through Leroy George. The winger punished some bad defending by Darryl Lachman. In the end, Zwolle extended their lead through Mateusz Klich,  pretty much sealing Eredivisie survival in the process.

In Tilburg, Willem II gave their slim hopes of survival a boost beating Roda JC 2-1. After a first half in which both teams had their chances, the number eighteen went 2-0 up within fifteen minutes after the break. First, a free kick by Höcher was headed home by Haastrup and ten minutes later, it was Luxembourg striker Aurélien Joachim who slotted home a penalty after he himself had comically gone down in the box. Syrian striker Sanharib Malki scored a late consolation goal for Roda.

VVV-Venlo were looking to surprise FC Twente and they were well on their way after 30 minutes. By then the Venlonaren were 2-0 up after Twente loanee Nils Röseler scored a header after a Linssen-cross, followed by a strike of Uche Nwofor.  Twente looked all at sea and VVV looked on course for the win but two crazy second-half minutes proved decisive. Rasmus Bengtsson scored from a Tadic corner and then Luc Castaignos tapped in a cross from inspired substitute Tim Hölscher.

FC Utrecht took advantage of Twente dropping two points and beat NAC Breda 3-0. Mike Van der Hoorn scored the opener, but after his comical own goal last week, he found the right one this time. Jens Toornstra doubled the lead, scoring from right-back Mark van der Maarel’s cross. NAC didn’t offer much resistence up much of a fight and in the second half, Duplan completed the rout after excellent work by 18-year old debutant Romano Van der Stoep.

This review was written by Michiel Jongsma (@JongsmaJongsma) & Peter McVitie (@PeterMcVitie)

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