This post is brought to you by
Ajax are now two points clear at the top of the Dutch league with a narrow 1-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles, as second placed Vitesse Arnhem were held 1-1 by bottom club NEC Nijmegen.
Week 20 began with RKC Waalwijk’s undefeated run of six games ending with a 2-1 away defeat to Heracles Almelo. Erwin Koeman’s side have not lost a game since early November in a 5-2 thrashing at Heerenveen. The hosts pressed for the majority of the first half, not giving RKC much chance of an attack, and Heracles nearly went ahead on the half hour mark if it were not for Arjan van Dijk in the RKC goal. After Imad Najah fouled Simon Cziommer on the edge of the area, the German midfielder stepped up and smashed the ball towards goal. It was a fierce effort but Van Dijk got across his goal to tip over.
The deadlock was broken before half-time and it was Bryan Linssen once again on the scoresheet. The ever lively Iliass Bel Hassani was tormenting RKC defence throughout and fire a ball across the goal on 39 minutes, Ben Rienstra’s sliding effort was denied by Van Dijk but unfortunately for the goalkeeper the ball fell to Linssen to notch his sixth goal of the season.
Shortly after the break, Heracles extended their lead. After some great work twisting and turning the left side of the RKC defence, winger Mikhail Rosheuvel swung a high ball into the box where Mark Uth met with a header, unchallenged by the two on looking Waalwijk defenders who were blaming each other for not marking.
RKC’s newest signing Daniel de Ridder made an appearance just after the hour mark replacing the Sander Duits, and a few minutes later his new side were handed a lifeline. It was a fortunate goal for Damiano Schet, the winger lined up a free-kick to a similar position to Cziommer’s in the first-half and hit a low drive towards Remko Pasveer’s goal. The ball ricocheted off the legs of the Heracles wall and diverted past the helpless Pasveer.
The visitors should and could have claimed a point in the dying embers of the game but Robert Braber blared an easy chance over the bar. Heracles held on in the late stages to claim all three points to lift them up to ninth at this point, while RKC drop into sixteenth just two points adrift of the basement spot.
Maurice Steijn walked out of the Kyocera Stadion on Saturday a happier man as he saw his ADO Den Haag side defeat title-chasing Feyenoord, to lift his men off the bottom of the league table.
It was Ronald Koeman’s men that were more dangerous early in the match but failed to score during their domination. The closest they came was a great chance for the lively Jean-Paul Boëtius after 16 minutes. A long ball came out of midfield from John Goossens landed at the feet of Boëtius, but unfortunately for the young winger, Tom Beugelsdijk placed Boëtius under sufficient pressure that the Feyenoord man smashed his shot into the side netting. The 19-year-old had a further chance ten minutes later but shot straight at goalkeeper Gino Coutinho.
As the half went on, ADO started to get into the game more and went a goal ahead on 36 minutes. Aaron Meijers was bundled over by Bruno Martins Indi on the right-wing and from that free-kick, Danny Holla crossed for Mike van Duinen who won a corner. Holla whipped in the corner that met a Tom Beugelsdijk header that sailed past Erwin Mulder in goal, the big defender was being poorly marked by Lex Immers.
The goal took the confidence out of Feyenoord and in first half stoppage time they found themselves another goal down. Surging down the right was ADO full-back Dion Malone, he planted in a dangerous whipping cross and Danny Bakker got in front of the visitors defence to place home a glancing header.
Koeman’s team-talk fired up Feyenoord and they pressed from the restart. It was not until the 68th minute before they a goal back. From a Goossens corner, striker Graziano Pellè (reasonably quiet until now), held the ball up to play into Jordy Clasie’s path on the edge of the area. The tenacious midfielder lashed a ball home to fire up the away crowd.
The tails were up for Feyenoord and ADO were against the ropes trying to protect their lead, but to no avail as the game was tied six minutes later. Meijers turned the ball over to Clasie on the edge of the box and the ball fell to Immers to the right of the area. Immers played in a low cross towards Graziano Pellè and the Italian does not miss from five yards out and it was 2-2.
From the restart, ADO began to play the ball and three minutes later they took the lead again, and won the game with the best piece of movement all match. Holla again involved crossing into the feet of Roland Alberg on the edge of the box, and with beautiful link-up play, Alberg played an excellent one-two with Van Duinen to finish elegantly. A bitter blow for Koeman and his side’s title chances but a vital three points for the hosts today in their relegation fight.
As the rain lashed down in Breda, Ron Jans celebrated extended his contract for another year leading his side to a great 2-1 win away to NAC. It was a game of few chances but Zwolle went behind on 20 minutes with an excellent finish from NAC’s Joey Suk. Danny Verbeek crossed from a free-kick on the left and after an aerial scramble to the ball right for the striker to acrobatically volley home.
Zwolle fought to get back into it and should have been level through Guyon Fernandez on 37 minutes. Great link-up play Kamohelo Mokotjo and Ryan Thomas played Fernandez in the area, the striker did well to turn his defender and a shot away but unfortunately dragged the effort just wide of Jelle ten Rouwelaar’s goal.
It took a penalty just after the restart to get the visitors level with Guyon Fernandezconverting after Anouar Hadouir fouled Mokotjo in the box.
Zwolle stole the game in controversial fashion on 75 minutes. It was a tremendous goal by Mustafa Saymak who hit the ball from 35 yards out that gave Ten Rouwelaar no chance, but the goal should not have stood. Video replays after the game proved that seconds earlier, substitute Thanasis Karagounis had took the ball out of play on the right wing but the assistant referee missed the call.
Jon Dahl Tomasson clinched his first win as Roda manager on Saturday evening sending Jan Wouters’ Utrecht to a fourth consecutive league defeat. Wouters should have seen his side take the lead on 12 minutes, but Tommy Oar failed to guide Yassin Ayoub’s great through ball on target.
Tomasson has to re-jig his side after a mid-week defeat in the KNVB Beker to AZ Alkmaar. In that game, Hungarian striker Krisztián Németh was stupidly sent-off after charging into a referee, which has gained him a five-match suspension. In his place in this game was Vasil Shkurti, a 21-year-old Albanian striker only appearing in his second game for the club. However, it was the Albanian that nearly grabbed Roda the lead on 23 minutes, but Utrecht ‘keeper Robbin Ruiter was on his usual top form protecting the goal.
Just after the half-hour mark, Roda scored the only goal of the game. The man in-form for the Kerkrade side is Guus Hupperts, and he showed his worth again to Tomasson in this game. After Mitchell Donald robbed Kai Heerings of the ball and played in Shkurti, the Albanian flick the ball onto the on-rushing Hupperts at the right of the box and the winger slammed the ball home past Ruiter. Utrecht barely bothered opposition goalkeeper Filip Kurto and Wouters will need to spark in his side and quick before they are dragged into the relegation battle.
After a great showing at the Amsterdam Arena in their close 1-0 defeat against rivals Ajax last Sunday, PSV returned to winning ways with a great win over AZ Alkmaar in Saturday’s evening game with the same scoreline. Phillip Cocu saw his team explode out of the blocks and were 1-0 up after just three minutes. The relentless PSV attack bombarded the AZ goal with shot after shot with pinball like effect. Eventually after Santiago Arias, Ji-Sung Park and Memphis Depay saw shots blocked, the ball fell to left-back Jetro Willems at the edge of the area, and his tame long range effort crept past Esteban to put the hosts ahead.
Cocu can thank his goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet for the three points as the 22-year-old pulled off save after save for his side. His most vital, was his first on 12 minutes. From a corner, Jan Wuytens emerged at the near post and back-heeled flicked the ball towards the goal and once the ball had ricocheted off the post, Zoet bravely palmed the attempt away out of the AZ preying attackers.
PSV had their chances to further the lead and win the game comfortably. With 18 minutes gone, Adam Maher latched onto a long ball from Willems and volleyed towards goal but the attempt raised to high to bother Esteban in goal. Also, on the half-hour mark, Stijn Schaars spotted Arias sprinting down the right-wing and when the young Colombian found himself one-on-one with the Costa Rican goalkeeper, he smashed his effort into the side netting.
AZ pressed after the break and Zoet’s gloves were kept warm, denying them time and time again. Most notably, Johann Berg Gudmundsson combining well with Aron Johansson but both were unable to find the leveller. PSV held on and grabbed a vital three points in their chase for a Europa League place in the top four. Dick Advocaat will be disappointed with his return to the Phillips Stadion but look forward to next week’s game hosting Groningen to get back on track.
Week 20 closed with just three games on Sunday as the Groningen-Twente match failed to take place due to a frozen pitch. The games that did go ahead provided great excitement and two more shock results to close the round of games. SC Cambuur provided their fans with a good day on Sunday with their first win in the Friese Derby since 1994.
Nigerian forward Bartholomew Ogbeche stole the show making his debut for Cambuur, creating one and scoring in the fantastic win. The hosts warmed up their fans in the Cambuur Stadion on a bitterly cold winter’s afternoon in Leeuwarden with a goal after just four minutes.
The goal was created by a long ball from the back of the Cambuur defence, Ogbeche rose above Joey van der Berg with ease to flick the ball into the path of on-loan strikerElvis Manu. Manu overpowered Christian Kum to win the ball and chip the ball over the onrushing Kristoffer Nordfeldt. The stadium erupted as Manu and Ogbeche wheeled away to celebrate with a dance at the corner flag.
Marco van Basten’s men should have equalized on 16 minutes by Leonard Nienhuis pulled off a great save to deny Hakim Ziyech. After Luciano Slagveer crossed from Ziyech just outside the area, Ziyech let fly with a right-foot volley but Nienhuis got across a tipped it out for a corner.
Just before the half-time whistle, Cambuur’s lead was doubled. Heerenveen’s on-loan defender Mitchell Dijks was penalised for a soft foul on Ajax team-mate Jody Lukoki, currently on-loan to Cambuur. The free-kick was given on the right-wing and Marcel Ritzmaier, also on-loan from PSV Eindhoven, whipped the ball into the centre. Once again, winning the aerial duel was Bartholomew Ogbeche who slipped Ramon Zoner to make it 2-0.
Heerenveen came out for the second half hungry for an early goal but they were unable to cope with the speed of the Cambuur attack and with just twenty minutes to go, the home side wrapped up the points. Manu slipped a defence-splitting ball through to Jody Lukoki who beat the offside trap and raced through on goal. With a one-on-one challenge with Nordfeldt, the 21-year-old kept his composure and finished coolly. The game was done and Dwight Lodeweges could be proud of his team’s performance today.
Before the final whistle could be blown, the inevitable happened as Alfred Finnbogason got a consolation goal for Heerenveen, his 19th goal in 17 games. However, it was an embarrassing defeat for Van Basten and his side and will look to bounce back next week at home to ADO. They now sit fifth and six points of fourth place. Meanwhile, for Cambuur the win lifts them up to 13th but they will need to build on this win to climb out of the relegation battle as Lodeweges men are still only three points off bottom side NEC.
Vitesse’s title hopes suffered a bitter blow as they were held at home against relegation candidates NEC in the Gelderse derby. Vitesse stay second after the draw but it looked promising early on for the Arnhem side after taking the lead on the half hour mark. Star of last week’s win over PEC Zwolle, Christian Atsu whipped in a corner that found defender Dan Mori in the box who headed home past Karl-Johan Johnsson in goal. The basement boys NEC should have levelled the game up before the interval, after they pressed and had Vitesse on the ropes for the remaining ten minutes of the half.
Vitesse failed to score another and paid the price with just twenty minutes to go. Danish forward Søren Rieks spun in a cross that the Vitesse defence failed to clear and Englishman Michael Higdon notched to tie the game. The GelreDome crowd went home unhappy and even more so that title rivals Ajax defeated Go Ahead Eagles a few hours later.
Ajax struggled to find their finishing in Deventer on Sunday afternoon but a narrow 1-0 win means that they stay top of the pile. As expected Ajax dominated in the early stages and should have taken the lead after just three minutes, if it were not for a shocking Kolbeinn Sigthórsson miss. Frank de Boer has his head in his hands after Bojan and Davy Klaassen had worked well to head the ball onto the Icelandic striker, but he fired his volley from just a few yards out straight in Eloy Room’s arms.
Ajax’s pressure was relentless but like Sigthórsson, Bojan, Klaassen and Lesley De Sa’s finishing was poor and unable to break the deadlock. Against the run of play, Go Ahead could have gone ahead themselves. Joël Veltman failed to head clear a Jarchinio Antonia cross from the right-wing but the defender got himself in front of Jeffrey Rijsdijk’s attempt to concede a corner.
The first-half petered out and ended goal-less but Ajax fired out of the blocks and were angry that they were not awarded a penalty after 51 minutes. Antonia bundled Klaassen over on the left side of the area, but referee Reinold Wiedemeijer booked the Ajax midfielder for diving, and the majority of the 7,938 attendance were cheering the decision. De Boer needed a goal and quick and just after the hour mark injected some fresh legs into the attack with the double Dane substitution of Lasse Schöne and Viktor Fischer on for De Sa and the poor Sigthórsson. Within a minute, Fischer nearly opened the scoring but his header from a Klaassen cross forced a save from Room.
The goal finally came on 74 minutes and it was the other substitution that broke the deadlock. After Ajax were awarded a free-kick outside the area courtesy of a Deniz Türüç handball, Lasse Schöne stood up to take it. The Danish midfielder fired his first attempt in the wall but after the rebound returned in his path, his low drive was too powerful for Room to stop and nestle into the corner of the goal. Ajax held on for the win and due to Vitesse being held by NEC, now sit two points at the top of the Eredivisie league table.
Heracles 2-1 RKC Waalwijk
ADO Den Haag 3-2 Feyenoord
NAC Breda 1-2 PEC Zwolle
Roda JC 1-0 FC Utrecht
PSV 1-0 AZ Alkmaar
Cambuur 3-1 Heerenveen
Vitesse 1-1 NEC Nijmegen
FC Groningen P-P FC Twente
Go Ahead Eagles 0-1 Ajax
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
Click on Will’s name above to follow him on Twitter