I took a trip to Eindhoven on Saturday to see what all the fuss is about surrounding Mark van Bommel’s title-chasing PSV side.

  • By Charlie Pritchard
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As Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’ rang around the Philips Stadion just before kick-off on Saturday night in Eindhoven, there was a deep sense of anticipation as the Eredivisie leaders stepped forth to showcase their excellence.

PSV are the league’s best right now. They have some of the best players in the Eredivisie, in particular, their lethal attacking trident of Hirving Lozano, Luuk de Jong and Steven Bergwijn. They also have the best trainer in the league right now in Mark van Bommel.

The fans were expectant, why wouldn’t they be hosting an SC Heerenveen side who are currently shipping goals? As perhaps expected, PSV were 1-0 up not long into the first-half. Some fabulous work from Bergwijn saw him wriggling past Davy Bulthuis to reach the by-line. Then, the winger played the ball perfectly to Lozano who finished easily from close range.

Nonetheless, Heerenveen grew into the game and with Arber Zeneli and PSV loanee Sam Lammers looking decent. Van Bommel was right when he said his team were “a bit sloppy” after their first goal. Despite their superiority in possession, PSV struggled to find a second goal.

Gaston Pereiro hit the post on the half-hour mark before VAR came into play. A lazy pass from goalkeeper Warner Hahn saw Lozano beat Morten Thorsby to the ball. Unfortunately for Thorsby, the Mexican was too sharp and after the consultation of VAR, referee Pol van Boekel sent the Norwegian off for a mistimed challenge, deemed Heerenveen’s last man in defence.

In the second half, PSV took advantage. Within five minutes of the restart, Lozano lofted a teasing cross to the far post where De Jong lost his man; watching, waiting. The Dutchman swivelled his body backwards to produce a sumptuous bicycle kick which flew across Hahn and into the right corner. The Philips Stadion erupted and Van Bommel turned to his bench in disbelief, placing his hands upon his head in sheer awe.

“Messi will be afraid if he sees the overhead!” De Jong jokingly said after the match. It was a complete performance from the striker, assisting for PSV’s third and final goal. Played in by Bergwijn, De Jong unselfishly squared the ball to Lozano who made it 3-0. The deadly PSV trio linked up for yet another goal, making their football look simple.

It was De Jong’s tactical awareness which was also striking last Saturday night. Mid-way through the first half PSV right-back, Denzel Dumfries burst forward but was ultimately dispossessed. In response, De Jong took the responsibility to shuffle all the way back to his own half to fill in for Dumfries. This was yet another indication that Van Bommel is meticulous in his defensive organisation of PSV this season.

John de Wolf for De Telegraaf was similarly impressed with the PSV captain. “De Jong is the perfect example of this current team because everybody is doing their job and on top of that there is room for extras,” De Wolf declared. “He has a willingness to work for the team and to give everything,” De Wolf continued.

Van Bommel appeared most impressed with this element to the PSV performance: the team spirit. “I actually enjoyed the entire team tonight”, Van Bommel proclaimed. Refusing to single out particular players, a penchant we football writers tend to have, Van Bommel was happy to praise the collective display.

Having said that, a special mention has to go to PSV left-back Angeliño for his best personal performance of the season. The Spaniard was simply brilliant down the left flank throughout the match, turning Heerenveen right-back Sheral Floranus inside and out. Floranus was utterly helpless in the face of Angeliño’s pace and technique. He covered so much ground and occupied positions of real width on the left, almost hugging the touchline. The left-back could have also grabbed a goal but was slightly unlucky with his finishing touch.

Nonetheless, Angeliño was a vital component in both PSV’s attack and defence, who enjoyed a comfortable evening. Nick Viegever was excellent, seizing upon any loose balls and providing aggression in the tackle to prevent Heerenveen from gathering any momentum going forward.

Elsewhere on the pitch, Pablo Rosario was imperious in PSV’s midfield. The youngster was a dominant presence throughout, recycling the ball expertly and providing muscle and fine tackling. It was yet another positive performance in his development at the club. By and large, PSV were vastly dominant and the Philips Stadion was spoilt at times.

PSV continue to impress and remain unwavering at the top of the table with 13 wins from 13 matches. Up next is Feyenoord at De Kuip in ‘De Topper’ next Sunday. Although the significance of the fixture may not lend to its traditional media billing as a ‘Topper’, it promises to be an exciting match as Feyenoord look to be the first team to stop Van Bommel’s men in their tracks this season.

A spectacular strike from Labyad is a highlight for Ajax in a routine victory over Breda

Earlier on Saturday evening, Ajax won 3-0 at NAC Breda. However, they were courtesy of some much-needed quality from second-half substitute Zakaria Labyad. The Moroccan swept home a perfect volley from David Neres’ headed knock-down to send Ajax into a 2-0 lead early in the second half with Breda predictably unable to respond during the remainder of the game.

Ajax were utterly dominant in the first period. Centre-back Daley Blind occupied an average position well into Breda’s half. However, Erik Ten Hag’s team lacked a cutting edge once again. Their goal finally arrived when Breda left-back Jethro Mashart could only chest the ball into his own net from Lasse Schöne’s corner. Mashart initially complained that he had been pushed in the back by Donny van de Beek. Yet replays showed Mashart getting his positioning horribly wrong to allow Ajax into the lead just before half-time.

Neres was the brightest of Ajax’s attacking trio in the absence of Hakim Ziyech on Saturday. Kasper Dolberg and Dušan Tadić were otherwise disappointing on a routine evening for the visitors. Labyad was introduced early in the second period and played a part in the game’s best moment of quality.

Labyad was enthusiastic in his post-match remarks, surely relieved to have got some momentum going into his Ajax career. “It has become clear to me why Ajax is the largest club in the Netherlands. The way of working, the people, the supporters. Everything is great,” he gushed in gratitude.

However, as Mike Verweij noted for De Telegraaf, the match showed demonstrated one thing. “Ziyech is missed” when he doesn’t play, Verweij observed. Ten Hag’s side lacked the intensity the Moroccan brings to their build-up play. Ajax were too measured, too calculated in spells. A home encounter with ADO Den Haag next Sunday lunchtime should see Ziyech return to the fold in another opportunity for Ajax to apply some pressure to PSV who play later that day in De Topper.

Feyenoord lack rhythm as they labour to victory at home to FC Groningen

Jens Toornstra scored his own volley for Feyenoord on Sunday to add to De Jong and Labyad’s efforts on Saturday. Picked out perfectly by Jordy Clasie’s diagonal lofted through ball, Toornstra sent Feyenoord 1-0 after six minutes against Groningen.

Yet that was all those at De Kuip could enjoy from the hosts. Feyenoord failed to take control of the whole match, enjoying only a twenty-minute spell of dominance. In reference to the goal, Gio van Bronckhorst solemnly admitted, “after that, it was very mediocre.”

Groningen could and probably should have equalised before half-time. Ritsu Doan was fabulous once again. The Japanese star exhibited wonderful balance and technique to weave his way into the Feyenoord penalty area many times. However, the closest Doan came was the woodwork, letting a careless Feyenoord off the hook.

A frank Danny Buijs said of his player after the match: “He can take the place of Hakim Ziyech when he leaves,” a realistic remark in face of speculation linking Doan away from Groningen. Of course, the winger’s future lies aware from the Euroborg but this season he will continue to be key. “We have a bid of nine and ten million euros,” Buijs admitted, “but for now, it’s a no”.

Looking ahead, Van Bronckhorst underlined the pitfalls of letting performance levels drop again when they host PSV on Sunday. Indeed, Feyenoord were impressive during the opening exchanges against Groningen but simply cannot afford a repeat performance against PSV. “We will have to reach that level for 90 minutes against PSV,” Van Bronckhorst warned.

As per usual in the Eredivisie this month, the top three remains solid. However, it could become vastly more intriguing on Matchday 13 with a big game in Rotterdam.


FC Utrecht hit their stride under Dick Advocaat with a terrific attacking display at home to De Graafschap. After 23 minutes, they led 3-0 courtesy of goals from players all over the pitch. Sander van de Streek read the script of the weekend: to score a rather nice volley. That he did, and Utrecht led after 15 minutes, not looking back from there.

Centre-back Willem Janssen scored their second shortly after with a resounding header, beating Jidde Jurjus in the De Graafschap goal to the ball. Gryano Kerk’s delicate flicked finish sent Utrecht into an unassailable lead from Oussama Tannane’s free-kick.

The resounding victory was capped off perfectly by Jong Utrecht graduate Nick Venema who finally turned out for the senior side after a strong season thus far. Venema opportunistically snapped up loose balls twice in the De Graafschap penalty area, seamlessly fitting into the side.  Utrecht move up to 5th and De Graafschap continue to toil in 17th.

In Venlo, VVV staged a dramatic comeback from 2-0 to draw at home to AZ Alkmaar. Despite going two down after 15 minutes, Venlo responded with another goal from Peniel Mlapa after half an hour, the striker scoring his fifth goal of the season after an assist from the ever-integral Ralf Seuntjens.

VVV substitute Peter van Ooijen was sent off for a rash challenge in stoppage time, with all hope of an equaliser seeming to seep away for Maurice Steijn and the home fans at De Koel. However, even deeper into injury time, another substitute played his own role, this time to the detriment of AZ. Patrick Joosten taking for what felt like an age to finally turn onto his left foot and beat Marco Bizot in the AZ goal. Venlo are now 7th and AZ are just below them in 8th.

Vitesse Arnhem scored three first-half goals to record a 3-1 victory in Tilburg away to Willem II. Fran Sol scored for the hosts, obviously, but it was too late.

Fortuna Sittard added to Heracles Almelo’s recent woes, winning 3-0 at home to go 9th. First-half goals from Mark Diemers and Finn Stokkers could not be replied to by Heracles as the visitors slip slowly down the table to 6th.

Credit to our own James Rowe for his assistance in translation for interview material featured in this piece

Charlie Pritchard (10 Posts)