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After the international break the Dutch Eredivisie returned to action with Feyenoord, Ajax, PSV and Vitesse Arnhem all fighting for the number one spot heading into the final few match days of the season. This past weekend however has seen the title take a massive swing towards Amsterdam with Frank de Boer’s side winning their match at home to NEC Nijmegen comfortably and other results going their way. Vitesse Arnhem the other title challenger playing at home last weekend also had a good weekend with their victory over PEC Zwolle putting them right in amongst Feyenoord and PSV who are all vying to topple Ajax at the summit of the Eredivisie table.
Feyenoord and PSV suffered rather contrasting weekends to those of Ajax and Vitesse with both Koeman and Advocaat’s men losing ground with poor results away from home, Feyenoord losing away at high flying Heerenveen coached by Marco van Basten whereas PSV drew away with Roda JC in Kerkrade.
Feyenoord again played earliest with their fixture away at Heerenveen coming late on Saturday evening with PSV, Ajax and Vitesse all to play the day after. Koeman’s men have in recent weeks recorded victories against Roda JC and FC Utrecht without ever really getting out of second gear. There are two ways this sort of form can go in a title race, it can galvanise the squad and give them momentum so when they come up against a stronger opponent they can simply move into a higher gear and win the big games in a way very similar to post-Christmas Manchester United in recent years under Sir Alex Ferguson, or conversely the team can be somewhat underprepared for when they come up against a better team and as a result will get caught cold and lose ground in the title race when they are required to play at a higher gear, and unfortunately for Ronald Koeman the latter is what occurred for his Feyenoord side last Saturday evening.
Try and try as they might Feyenoord could not break Heerenveen down with van Basten’s side buoyed by having recorded a win over PSV at home just around three weeks ago. Feyenoord struggled to get out of the second gear they had been in to defeat Roda and Utrecht respectively with leading scorer Graziano Pelle being sorely missed in the attacking third. Boëtius was disappointing as was Ruben Schaken on the right hand side following his impressive performances for the Dutch national side in midweek and it did appear as if Feyenoord has something of an international hangover with their performance never reaching the required levels to overcome a well organised Heerenveen side. Heerenveen themselves weren’t at their best but De Superfriezen eventually broke the deadlock in the eighty fifth minute of play through a right footed Finnbogason strike which was his twenty first of the season. This goal sent Feyenoord into a state of shock and a second was applied just four minutes later from former West Brom loanee Yassine El Ghanassy which sealed Feyenoord’s fate.
Roda JC hosting PSV in Kerkrade was the early fixture on Sunday morning with Dick Advocaat’s side knowing they could put a degree of distance between themselves and Feyenoord as a result of Feyenoord’s defeat to Heerenveen however in what was a quite remarkable game of football the underdogs of Roda stunned PSV to register a 2-2 draw. In a first half that saw PSV create lots of chances it was actually Roda JC who struck first through a set piece. A corner whipped in after just thirteen minutes found the head of the on loan from Bournemouth centre forward Frank Demouge with the PSV defence guilty of lax marking at the back. PSV levelled however just four minutes later through a corner of their own. A ball whipped in by Memphis Depay who came into the starting line-up in place of Dries Mertens found the head of Ola Toivonen who nodded the ball quite a way over the line only for the linesman to not give the goal, however common sense prevailed and the referee took matters into his own hands and awarded Eindhoven their equaliser.
PSV took the lead in the thirty third minute of play with Toivonen getting his second, a defensive error from Roda allowed Jeremain Lens pick up the ball on the right hand side and the Dutch International played an early ball across the Roda penalty area where Toivonen was lurking to tap the ball into the net from a few yards out. Roda ended the half in the ascendency with a number of chances at Boy Waterman’s goal with Guus Hupperts ratting the crossbar with virtually the last kick of the first half. In the second half PSV never pushed for a third goal and were to rue this badly when Roda equalised through leading scorer Sanharib Malki in the eighty seventh minute after a good bit of link-up play to expose the Eindhoven defence. Visibly stunned by this PSV nearly conceded a third goal deep into injury time with Demouge breaking away at goal forcing a save from Waterman.
Ajax and Vitesse kicked off their respective home games at the same time on Sunday afternoon with Ajax knowing they could go four points clear of PSV and Feyenoord if they were to win against NEC Nijmegen. Ajax played with the sort of freedom from pressure that they had not been allowed in recent weeks, knowing that even if they didn’t get a result it wouldn’t see them taken from the top of the table and the freedom allowed Ajax to play the sort of free flowing attacking, possession keeping football for which they have become famed. It was to be a comfortable afternoon for Ajax with the home side running out 4-1 winners with the performance of Viktor Fischer catching eyes across the continent with his second goal to make the score 3-0 being an absolutely exquisite lob from outside the penalty area.
Vitesse as Ajax had done against NEC endured a comfortable afternoon against PEC Zwolle, whilst the Arnhem side didn’t get out of second gear they still recorded an easy 2-1 win over Zwolle with Wilfried Bony and Mike Havenaar getting the first half goals. Wilfried Bony has in recent times left question marks over his future at GelreDome with interest from West Ham being confirmed yesterday by manager Sam Allardyce. Zwolle pulled a goal back in the seventy eighth minute through Arsenio Valpoort however it wasn’t enough to mount a serious comeback.
Those results left Ajax at the top of the table three points ahead of PSV and Vitesse Arnhem who sat in second and third place respectively whilst Feyenoord had been demoted to fourth spot four points behind Ajax with only fifty six points to their name. Next weekend sees Feyenoord host VVV-Venlo on the Friday evening whilst Vitesse host NAC Breda on Saturday. PSV travel to Willem II on Saturday evening whilst Ajax have to wait until Sunday to host Heracles Almelo.
*Since this has been written Feyenoord recorded a 1-0 victory over VVV-Venlo to hoist Koeman’s men to second in the table, if only for a few hours.*