It was never going to be easy, and many of us had one eye on Feyenoord's game against VVV midweek. A 10-0 bruising will take time to forget, possibly years, but this week ends better than it started for Rotterdam's finest. John Dobson on the midweek games from Holland.
Roda JC 1-1 NEC
Heracles 4-1 NAC
Groningen 3-1 ADO
Ajax 3-1 Heerenveen
De Graafschap 2-1 AZ
Willem II 1-3 Twente
Feyenoord 3-0 VVV Venlo
Vitesse 0-2 PSV
Utrecht 2-0 Excelsior
Not many changes after the first midweek round of the season in the Eredivisie. PSV continue to lead after a predictable win over Vitesse who quickly moved to oust Theo Bos and replace him with former Barcelona and Chelsea full-back Albert Ferrer in his first head coaching role. Anyone expecting PSV to rack up another massive win would be disappointed, but it was a straightforward victory completed at something of a canter. Jonathan Reis headed in a cross from Balázs Dzsudzsák to open the scoring late in the first half and it was Dzsudzsák who made the game safe with a second half penalty.
Twente remain their nearest challengers after they saw off Willem II who took a shock lead through Rowin van Zaanen after quarter of an hour, sliding in to poke it past Nikolay Mihaylov, the worryingly inconsistent Bulgarian keeper. Given that Michel Preud’homme was an accomplished keeper himself and that Sander Boschker hasn’t become a liability overnight, it’s a mystery as to the Belgian’s preference for Mihaylov, but it’s not proved hugely costly yet. That’s thanks in no small part to Twente’s attacking verve and moving Luuk de Jong into midfield has allowed him more space and makes him very hard to pick up. He snuck in at the back post at a corner to restore parity just on the half hour and Twente were ahead by half time, again coming as a result of Willem II’s ineptitude at set pieces. Another Theo Janssen corner was headed goalward by Nacer Chadli. It was saved, but Douglas was on hand to nip in and mop up the scraps from close range. Midway through the second half, a third Janssen corner produced a third goal, de Jong bringing it down and stabbing it home in one flowing motion.
Ajax remain third after brushing aside Heerenveen, Mounir El Hamdaoui continuing his fine season with his ninth and tenth goals of the season. The first was a thing of beauty, a ball forward laid off by Luis Suarez into El Hamdaoui’s path and he lobbed the keeper beautifully from 20 yards. That came after ten minutes, but the Friesians were level in the 24th through Bas Dost who got across his marker to divert a cross beyond fit-again Maarten Stekelenburg. Three minutes into the second half, a loose defensive header dropped to El Hamdaoui who lashed a sumptuous volley in to restore the lead – the onlooking Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud of a finish like that. And with time running down, Vurnon Anita won the ball in his own half, charged up the left flank, cut inside and finished in style to wrap it up.
Roda JC lost a bit of ground after a Tuesday draw with NEC, Bjorn Vleminckx rescuing a point for the Nijmegeners after in-form Arnaud Djum had given the Kerkrade side the lead in the first half. Groningen remain fifth after getting back to winning ways against ADO who were ahead early through Lex Immers who got on the end of a sweeping move. Shortly after the break, it was back level as Jonas Ivens powered in a header from a corner and it wasn’t long before Groningen were ahead, another firm header – Andreas Granqvist this time – doing the damage. As time ticked down, ADO got more and more ragged and they were picked off in the last minute, Koen van Laak sliding in to meet a deep cross and poke it into an open goal.
Feyenoord got a win, which at least mitigates the memories of the previous weekend, if not erases them. An understandably cagey first half gave way to a much more expansive second. They had to go to the well in that first period as VVV scented blood and carved by far the better chances and had they been able to take one, Feyenoord looked like caving in. They couldn’t though and Feyenoord drew strength and should have been ahead moments after the break as a corner was headed down and cleared out of the goalmouth, but only after crossing the line by a clear ball width, Mario Been clearly gesturing as much to the referee from the sideline. It didn’t prove costly, as they were ahead moments later, Georgino Wijnaldum chipping the keeper after latching onto a long through ball. The relief was palpable. With seven minutes left, Andre Bahia headed in a free-kick and Wijnaldum wrapped it up in stoppage time when he converted Tim de Cler’s deft cross.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel is level in the goal scoring stakes with El Hamdaoui as he notched his tenth of the season as Utrecht beat fast fading Excelsior. Dries Mertens crossed for Jacob Mulenga to open the scoring just six minutes in and it was Mertens again the supplier three minutes into second half stoppages, squaring for van Wolfswinkel to tap in as the Excelsior defence was ripped apart. AZ’s revival came to a shuddering halt in Doetinchem as De Graafschap came from behind to beat the 2009 champions. Graziano Pelle nipped between two defenders to turn a Brett Holman cross in for the opener early in the second half, but De Graafschap were level through Rydell Poepon’s neat header six minutes later. With three minutes left, Hugo Bargas managed to turn a free-kick through a forest of legs to snatch a win.
The big winners of the round were Heracles who won their second in three and are beginning to move out of trouble, trouble they should never have got into with the talent available in the side. They were two up in ten minutes, Samuel Armenteros with a second-minute header and Marc-Jan Fledderus managing to sneak a cross/shot in at the near post. Willy Overtoom made it three by half time with a penalty and it was four with ten minutes to go as Kwame Quansah played in Glynor Plet who finished neatly. The only blot was a late consolation for NAC as Kees Luijckx got a faint header on Leonardo’s free-kick with five minutes to go.
No doubts as to the top game this week: it’s first versus second on Saturday night as Twente go to Eindhoven. It won’t decide the destiny of the championship, but it would certainly set the tone. Both sides go into the game in form and it should be a cracker. Ajax go to resurgent Heracles which might be tricky while the fourth and fifth place clubs both have winnable games, Roda at home to Willem II and Groningen away to VVV Venlo. Utrecht are back up to sixth and face ADO while AZ welcome Feyenoord to the Almaarderhout. With both sides in patchy form, anything could happen. Albert Ferrer’s managerial career begins in Nijmegen, a tough assignment at the best of times.
VVV Venlo v Groningen
NAC v De Graafschap
Excelsior v Heerenveen
Heracles v Ajax
PSV v Twente
ADO v Utrecht
NEC v Vitesse
Roda JC v Willem II
AZ v Feyenoord
You can follow John on Twitter @Euroballs