Charlie Pritchard looks back at Feyenoord 2-1 PSV and the rest of the action in the Dutch top flight in his weekly Eredivisie column. 

Last week, Mark van Bommel spoke about the difficult transition between Champions League and Eredivisie football. “Switching between defensive to more offensive football is not easy,” the PSV Eindhoven manager insisted before yesterday’s meeting with Feyenoord at De Kuip. He was proved right as PSV fell to their first defeat of the season at the hands of his former Oranje teammate Gio van Bronckhorst and his impressive Feyenoord side.

In the Eredivisie this season, PSV have been scintillating going forward. However, against Feyenoord, their attacking trio of Hirving Lozano, Luuk de Jong and Steven Bergwijn lacked the finesse we have grown accustomed to. As Van Bommel lamented the difficulties of going from defensive to offensive football, he watched his team get stuck in the mud during a torrid first half in Rotterdam.

PSV were out-battled and out-thought, succumbing to two quick-fire goals which sent De Kuip into delirium. On paper, this was PSV’s toughest test away from home in the Eredivisie so far. On the pitch, pre-match concerns that PSV would end their perfect league start were ultimately justified.

The start to the match was scrappy and at times uncontrolled. The usually composed PSV centre-back Nick Viergever went clattering into Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jørgensen after fifteen minutes, picking up a booking. Feyenoord’s Sven van Beek saw Viergever’s challenge and raised it, launching into a heavy-handed and late challenge on De Jong.

The intensity of the opening exchanges was reminiscent of October’s De Klassieker between Ajax and Feyenoord in Amsterdam. However, this time, Feyenoord thrived during a combative first-half. Feyenoord enjoyed 83% possession after twenty minutes and the hosts countered with devastating precision.

Berghuis picked the ball up in his own half and drove forward, sending PSV’s players backwards towards their own goal. Jørgensen made a fantastic run to evade Jorrit Hendrix and Berghuis played the Dane through. With a lot left to do, Jørgensen caught Jeroen Zoet off guard, blasting a first-time shot in off the keeper’s near post to send Feyenoord 1-0 up.

Buoyed by their opener, Feyenoord pressed PSV even further. Returning right-back Jeremiah St. Juste came flying forward to dispossess De Jong and Sam Larsson picked up the loose ball. With PSV’s defenders retreating again, the Swede unleashed a stunning strike flying past Zoet into his top right corner.

The goal was huge for Feyenoord but also for Larsson personally. Larsson called it his “best moment for Feyenoord,” as he scored his first league goal of the season. Feyenoord could have scored again before the break. Jens Toornstra bullied Viergever to win the ball back but it bounced out for a corner. Toornstra wanted more from the crowd, demanding the fans to crank the noise up to continue Feyenoord’s momentum. Van Bronckhorst believed that Feyenoord’s lead “should have been greater than two goals,” and it certainly could have been.

Feyenoord pressed PSV with maturity and incision. As Valentijn Driessen of De Telegraaf noted, St. Juste and Toornstra were vastly influential. Driessen remarked that the two played “with leadership,” a stark contrast to their “misbehaving” against Ajax in October when St. Juste was sent off after just five minutes.

The second half saw the onus shift to PSV who desperately searched for a route back into the game. Donyell Malen came on for Gaston Pereiro at half-time and PSV enjoyed more possession. Some individual brilliance from Bergwijn saw him go around Tyrell Malacia and slide home through the legs of Justin Bijlow to make it 2-1 on 70 minutes. However, Malen squandered two chances late on and PSV trudged to their first league defeat of the season.

Malen shouldn’t be blamed for PSV’s failure to equalise. He showed energy and intent upon his introduction to the second half and cannot be the fall guy for the paralysis of PSV’s forward line. Instead, enormous praise must go to Feyenoord for a disciplined and clinical performance. De Kuip was alive once again, with scenes reminiscent of their glorious title victory of 2017.

So, how do Feyenoord continue this impressive run of form? Driessen talks of a “devilish dilemma” that persists at Feyenoord. He wonders how Feyenoord can perform so passively in their narrow victory against FC Groningen yet produce such an outstanding performance a week later. “I think it’s easier to keep your focus against an opponent like PSV,” Toornstra claims. “It should not be, but I think it is human that you sometimes lose focus in certain matches. We started well against Groningen, but after a while, it slipped away and we became sloppy.”

Van Bronckhorst will hope that his players show similar intensity when Feyenoord host VVV Venlo on Thursday evening. There is quiet optimism in the Feyenoord camp as the Rotterdammers look to reduce the gap to PSV by only seven points. “It is still possible to bridge that,” Van Bronckhorst confidently proclaimed. “It is an important week for Feyenoord.”

Perhaps Feyenoord will suit their role as chasers of PSV and Ajax in 1st and 2nd. Toornstra certainly believes so. “We cannot immediately say we are title candidates,” the midfielder says. “But it is also great to be in the underdog position for the time being.” A rejuvenated Larsson echoes this. “Of course we will participate in the title fight again,” the winger said. “Seven points is nothing in this competition. What we have shown against PSV, we now have to do every week.”

Talking points

• Ajax enjoyed one of their best performances of the season with a comprehensive 5-1 victory at home to ADO Den Haag.

Quality oozed from all over the pitch as goals came from defenders, midfielders and forwards. Ajax overloaded a deep ADO defensive line for their first two goals. David Neres and Nico Tagliafico scored from close range to send Ajax 2-0 up early on. A stunning free-kick from Aaron Meijers pegged Ajax back with five minutes left of the first half.

However, Matthijs de Ligt swept a sublime driven strike from 30 yards past a stretching Robert Zwinkels to give Ajax a 3-1 half-time lead. An utterly dominant second-half display saw Donny van de Beek and substitute Kasper Dolberg score goals four and five to the glee of Ajax trainer Erik Ten Hag.

“Three more points and we have entertained the crowd,” Ten Hag summated. “They played very compactly with five defenders but because we scored quickly they had to change.” Dick Sintenie of Het Parool was impressed by the Ajax performance and how Ten Hag’s team played all over the pitch. Sintenie wrote that a “versatile and varied method of attack” hurt ADO dearly, making it a straightforward afternoon for Ten Hag. The Ajax trainer will be even more optimistic about his team’s title chances following PSV’s defeat to Feyenoord.

• Issues at AZ Alkmaar thickening as they lose 2-0 at home to Willem II.

Not many teams have stopped Fran Sol from scoring this season. The Spanish striker scored his eleventh and twelfth goals of the league season on Saturday. In doing so, he became the Eredivisie ’s top goal-scorer this campaign. The Spaniard demonstrated predatory instincts to volley the visitors into the lead after just two minutes. The Willem II talisman added a second when Donis Avdijaj raced in on goal and squared for Sol to finish easily.

AZ were woeful at the back and the Tilburg outfit should have scored more. AZ captain Guus Til was ashamed with the performance, claiming “something has to change” following the defeat. It was the first time AZ have lost at home to the Willem II since the 2000/01 season.

There was a lengthy enquiry post-match inquiry in the home dressing room following the result. De Telegraaf reported that Til, Teun Koopmeiners, Pantelis Hatzidiakos as well as assistant coach Pascal Jansen remained in the dressing room for over an hour after the match. By the point they emerged, most of the lights in the AFAS Stadion were already extinguished. “It is by now a crisis with a capital C for AZ,” De Telegraaf proclaimed. AZ are now ten points off Feyenoord and they sit in 8th place.

• Clinical second-half performance from FC Groningen vital as they hit five past Breda.

Ritsu Doan is a wonderfully talented young footballer. The rising Japanese star is vital to FC Groningen as his coach Danny Buijs has emphasised many times this season. Doan was involved straight for the kick-off. His exquisite lofted through ball to Mimoun Mahi was met with a glorious first-time volley, sending the hosts into an early lead. Doan almost got a second for Groningen shortly after, forcing Benjamin van Leer into an acrobatic save from 25 yards out.

Yet Groningen allowed Breda to grow into the game. Mikhael Rosheuvel tapped home after fifteen minutes to equalise and just ten minutes into the second half, Mitchell te Vrede headed Breda into an unlikely 2-1 lead. Sergio Padt’s woeful attempt to catch the high ball allowed Breda into an unlikely 2-1 away lead.

Breda’s lead lasted no longer than two minutes. Doan was quickest to a loose ball in the visitors’ six-yard box and showed good balance to equalise for the hosts. Groningen took the lead with fifteen minutes to go when right-back Deyoraiso Zeefuik burst forward to finish from a tight angle.

Mahi and Samir Memisevic added goals four and five for Groningen, capitalising from some slack Breda defending. Jubilant scenes followed at the Euroborg as Groningen put some distance between themselves and Breda at the bottom of the table. Groningen remains 16th and on thirteen points, five clear of Breda who are rock bottom. Although Groningen remains in the relegation play-off positions, they will take heart from the fact that they are only four points off Heerenveen who are 9th in the table.

Charlie Pritchard (9 Posts)