Well it is very much a case of ‘as you were’ at the top of the Dutch Eredivisie after this past weekend’s round of fixtures with table toppers Ajax of Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and Vitesse Arnhem all recording victories to keep the gap between the first and fourth placed team in the Dutch top flight to just three points.
PSV once again played earliest with the Eindhoven side’s match at home to RKC being on Saturday whilst Feyenoord, Ajax and Vitesse all played throughout Sunday. Dick Advocaat’s side after losing their lead at the top of the table last week due to a poor performance and result away at Heerenveen were determined to keep pressure on rivals Ajax who were to travel to Alkmaar to face AZ later on that weekend. PSV registered what can simply be described as a comfortable victory over RKC with 34000 fans in the Philips Stadion witnessing Dries Mertens open the scoring within six minutes of play from the penalty spot before Georginio Wijnaldum completed the scoring just after the hour mark with an exquisitely executed lofted finish over RKC’s goalkeeper. This defeat plunges RKC into deeper relegation trouble with the Waalwijk side sitting just one point above the relegation zone following four defeats in their past five League matches.
With it being clear that his team are being dragged into a relegation dogfight, under pressure RKC boss Erwin Koeman, younger brother of Feyenoord’s Ronald, lambasted his players stating that some of his players were more concerned on potential transfers in the summer rather than concentrating on the RKC relegation fight. Koeman clearly unhappy with his side’s level of commitment exclaimed to the Dutch media in the aftermath of the PSV defeat “I would rather lose 4-0 and go down fighting than this.” RKC face ADO Den Haag at home on March 31st following the International break and Erwin Koeman will be hoping his side will be more committed to win that game in order to avoid slipping further down into the abyss that is the relegation zone.
This early weekend win for PSV whilst making it a more relaxing weekend for Advocaat and co, ramped up the pressure on Ajax and Feyenoord to win their respective matches against AZ Alkmaar and FC Utrecht who still at the time of the fixture had an outside chance of mounting a late title challenge.
Ajax buoyed by their recent form which has seen them overtake PSV at the top of the table starting the match against AZ like a proverbial house on fire with Siem de Jong and Daley Blind giving the Amsterdammers a 2-0 lead going into the break which left the home crowd at the AFAS Stadion in a state of shock. The home side improved after the break however with summer signing Markus Henriksen scoring just two minutes after the restart with a smart header following Ajax’s inability to clear an AZ corner kick. With Alkmaar pushing for the equaliser in front of their home supporters it was somewhat inevitable that Ajax with the quality they have in abundance going forward, would catch them cold on the counter attack, this proved to be the case in the fifty ninth minute with de Jong got his second of the afternoon from a heavily deflected free kick. AZ did give themselves half a chance when Jozy Altidore slotted coolly under Kenneth Vermeer following a defence splitting pass from young starlet Adam Maher however this was to be the last goalmouth action of the game with Ajax recording a 3-2 victory.
Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium was a sea of red and white just minutes prior to kick off in their match against FC Utrecht with the noise being taken to a new level by a home support that really did feel their team was in with a great chance of ending their thirteen year wait for another Eredivisie title, the crowd determined to help push their side forwards if needs be were, yet again just like in Matchday 26 against Roda, put through an opening thirty minute period where their side dominated possession and created numerous chances but couldn’t find the net. Yet again Ronald Koeman’s side were rescued by Graziano Pelle who opened the scoring on the half hour mark with a calm powerful finish into the near post corner of the net from fourteen yards. In very much the same manner as their fixture against Roda JC in Matchday 26, Feyenoord didn’t so much take their foot of the gas but were comfortable in leading by the solitary goal with FC Utrecht posing very little threat.
This lead was held until the fifty ninth minute when an error from Stefan de Vrij saw his backpass go straight into the path of Cedric van der Gun who made no mistake in putting the ball past Erwin Mulder into the Feyenoord net. This setback merely galvanised the Feyenoord supporters who instantaneously roared their team onto restoring their lead with Daryl Janmaat making a great run from right wing back in order to get into the penalty area before powering a shot into the corner of the net with a centre forward like instinct. The match then returned to very much the same tempo it had been played at when Feyenoord led 1-0 and it continued in this vein until the final whistle with Feyenoord winning their second straight match in the Eredivisie where they haven’t really got out of second gear. Whilst this might bode well for the Rotterdammers energy and confidence levels for harder fixtures coming up it may well leave them unprepared for tougher opponents such as Vitesse Arnhem who they face in mid April with there being a risk of being caught cold and coach Ronald Koeman will no doubt be eager to drum the importance of good performances into his team during the International fixture break.
Vitesse made the journey to Den Haag to face an out of form ADO Den Haag side and it was a more than one sided affair with the Arnhem club running out 4-0 victors thanks to a brace from the league’s leading scorer Wilfried Bony and a goal apiece from Marco van Ginkel and Mike Havenaar. This win keeps the gap between Ajax and Vitesse to three points and if Vitesse can keep up their recent resurgence in form with the help of Bony’s continuous flow of goals there may well be a chance that Vitesse could triumph in this season’s now four horse race for the Eredivisie title.