A new weekly feature on Football-Oranje, Charlie Pritchard takes a look at the weekend’s Eredivisie action and picks his main talking points. 

Despite some captivating action in the Eredivisie last weekend, the positions at either end of the table are essentially as-you-were. At the top, Mark van Bommel’s PSV Eindhoven continued their 100% start to the season at home to Vitesse Arnhem. Erik ten Hag’s Ajax comfortably defeated Willem II in a routine victory. Finally, Gio van Bronckhorst’s Feyenoord played just one minute at De Kuip against VVV, the match abandoned after floodlighting failure.

The bottom three in the table also remains the same. Groningen stay rock bottom despite an engrossing 4-2 away win at Excelsior. NAC Breda’s Mitchell te Vrede scored an 88th-minute winner against Heracles Almelo sparking jubilant scenes amongst the home fans. FC Emmen also scored late on at Heerenveen to draw 1-1. The only significant movement in the table was FC Utrecht’s fourth straight win with a victory against ADO Den Haag. Utrecht boss Dick Advocaat continues an excellent run at the helm as his side moves up to 5th.

PSV and Ajax reflect contrastingly upon straightforward home victories

Whilst PSV defeated Vitesse 1-0 and Ajax beat Willem II 2-0, their two managers cut contrasting figures on Saturday night.

Mark van Bommel described PSV’s victory as “very disciplined” as his side played against ten men for the majority of the match. Leonid Slutsky’s Vitesse lost centre-back Danilho Doekhi early on when he was sent off for hacking down Hirving Lozano. The Mexican was scampering towards goal after Angeliño’s incisive ball forward. Slutsky complained post-match about Serdar Gözübüyük’s decision, claiming that Doekhi’s challenge “was not a clear one on one”. Nonetheless, the Russian coach was pleased with his team’s performance. Slutsky proclaimed: “for the future of this team it [the match] was good”. He explained this, continuing: “I am proud of the team’s fighting spirit. Sometimes team spirit is more important than points”.

Luuk de Jong scored the game’s only goal midway through the second half, poking past the onrushing Vitesse keeper Eduardo. The Dutch marksman was picked out by Lozano, who found De Jong with a perfect inswinging cross from the left. De Jong now has nine league goals and is enjoying a brilliant goal-scoring run. The striker also grabbed the equaliser at home to Tottenham Hotspur in PSV’s most recent UEFA Champions League outing.

Van Bommel’s positive post-match comments regarding PSV’s success in breaking down Vitesse contrasted with the mood in the Ajax camp. Of course, PSV are content with any victories because it cements their status as leaders. Yet for Ajax, Ten Hag is demanding more from his players. The Dutchman was “very disappointed” with his team’s second-half against  Willem II, a side PSV thrashed 6-0 earlier this season.

Ten Hag demands more of Ajax slackers

Ajax did, in fact, start the game against Willem superbly. David Neres and Dušan Tadić squandered chances within the first ten minutes, failing to capitalise on their opponent’s mistakes. However, this was just a “postponement of execution” for Willem II, as De Telegraaf put it. Kasper Dolberg and Frenkie de Jong translated Ajax’s early dominance into goals with two impressive finishes, 2-0 after 25 minutes. Nicolás Tagliafico was also magnificent once again down the left flank for the Amsterdammers. However, Hakim Ziyech could not turn his mercurial talent into goals or assists in the manner he usually does.

On his team’s second-half performance, Ten Hag said “it was nothing”, slating Ajax’s lack of quality in Willem’s final third. Ten Hag added: “It is true that we often stop playing football if we have a few goals”. The Ajax coach has addressed this problem his team, continuing: “We talk about that. We have to work on that”. Frenkie de Jong echoed these sentiments: “I am very disappointed. I think we played really badly”. The midfield star also made the damning claim: “If we play like that, we will never become champions”. Without an Eredivisie title since 2013-14, it is clear that frustration is beginning to mount at Ajax despite comfortable victories.

Willem II trainer Adrie Koster’s view was that PSV will ultimately become champions come May. Although Koster sees Ajax as a more “classy” team, he was quick to emphasise PSV’s devastating attacking prowess. Koster continued: “PSV is five points ahead and that difference in this competition is too big”. Koster also claimed that “PSV and Ajax determine how high their victory will be”, lamenting their attacking superiority. Using this logic, Koster concluded that PSV would reign supreme once again in the Eredivisie to defend their title.

Overjoyed Breda can take immense spirit from victory over Heracles

NAC Breda were an inspiring watch on Saturday night. After a cagey opening twenty minutes, young Serbian forward Luka Ilic got the Breda crowd rocking. With a bamboozling run off the right flank, Ilic lashed a finish past Janis Blaswich from a tight angle to send the hosts 1-0 up.

Unfortunately for Breda, they were hit with an injury scare as goal-scorer Ilic was substituted early into the second half. Ilic hobbled off but the injury is not serious going forward.

In the following phase of play, Heracles equalised. Brandley Kuwas burst forward into the Breda half, cutting onto his left foot when he arrived at the Breda penalty area, unleashing an arrowed strike which flew past Benjamin van Leer. Heracles had chances to snatch the winner. Kristoffer Peterson hit the post from distance and Adrian Dalmau came close in a good spell for the visitors.

Yet it was the hosts who grabbed all three points through striker Mitchell te Vrede, the hero on the night. Te Vrede had been anonymous for the majority of the match but was decisive when it mattered. The Dutchman plucked Mikhael Rosheuvel’s left-wing cross out the air and half-volleyed into the roof of the net, sending Breda fans into a frenzy.

On the pitch, midfielder Anouar Kali gleefully felt the roaring energy inside the Rat Verlegh Stadion. The Moroccan said: “I have rarely seen a stadium explode as after 2-1”. Chants of ‘Oooh Mitchell te Vrede’ rung around the ground as the match-winner conducted his interview with FOX Sports. It was Breda’s first win since August 18 and Heracles’ third defeat of the season, all of them away from home. Breda are now unbeaten in three and take a trip to fellow strugglers FC Emmen next weekend in a fixture of enormous significance.

Groningen finally win again but remain in the relegation zone

Groningen recorded only their second win of the season on Friday night when they left Rotterdam with a 4-2 victory over Excelsior. The hosts came close early through Spurs loanee Marcus Edwards and Ryan Koolwijk. However, their defence fell asleep twice before the half-hour mark, sending Groningen into an unlikely lead.

Mimoun Mahi struck first when he spun and shot past Sonny Stevens after Ludovit Reis picked the striker out well. For Groningen’s second, Excelsior ludicrously failed to deal with a high ball into their penalty area. Japan international Ritsu Doan was the profiteer, delicately controlling the ball on his left foot to tee up a sumptuous volley which gave Stevens no chance.

Not to be outdone by such fabulous finishing, Koolwijk got Excelsior back into the game. The midfielder scored an acrobatic volley from a corner to make the score 2-1 at halftime, a stunning goal. The spectators in Rotterdam witnessed another exquisite finish when Groningen’s Mateo Cassierra clipped an outrageous shot over and away from Stevens. The keeper could only watch on helplessly as the Colombian scored an excellent 25-yard strike to make it 3-1.

Luigi Bruins’ converted penalty for Excelsior made the score 3-2, setting up an exciting finale. However, Groningen killed the match off with their fourth when Danish substitute Jannik Pohl finished from close range after Deyoraiso Zeefuik’s cross from the right. It was Groningen’s first victory since the end of August after losing all but one of their league matches in September and October.

FC Utrecht continue impressive form under Advocaat

Although Utrecht are not playing alluring football this season, they remain vastly effective. Sunday afternoon’s match at home to ADO Den Haag was a game where Utrecht took their chances and their visitors didn’t. Both sides had five shots on target. The difference was that Utrecht converted three of them into goals and ADO failed to capitalise from the openings they made. A particular chance of note was when Lex Immers was found free in the Utrecht box but his tame shot was saved by David Jensen.

ADO’s keeper Indy Groothuizen had a day to forget after his calamitous error allowed Utrecht into an early lead. Under no pressure, the goalkeeper failed to clear Dion Malone’s back-pass, comically running back towards his goal. The ball ricocheted off the post and into the path of the grateful Cyriel Dessers, who tapped in with ease. Nonetheless, ADO settled into the game and almost equalised early into the second half. Sheraldo Becker’s rifled ball into the box caused confusion in the Utrecht six-yard area and the ball was hooked away in panic.

The hosts killed the game in the 68th minute when centre-backs Timo Letschert and Willem Janssen combined to make it 2-0. Letschert nodded the ball down from a corner into Janssen’s path, the defender stabbing the ball in from close range. Joris van Overeem made it three when Gryano Kerk found him open on the ADO penalty spot to score his third goal of the season.

For Utrecht, they go up to 5th and the loss for ADO leaves them 12th. It is Advocaat’s fourth consecutive victory at the helm and he has only lost one of his first eight matches in charge of Utrecht [in all competitions].

Floodlight failure at De Kuip sees match abandoned

Elsewhere on Sunday afternoon, floodlighting issues resulted in the abandonment of Feyenoord’s fixture with VVV Venlo at De Kuip.  Stadium director Jan van Merwijk said he was “terribly sorry” about the failure to the external power supply in the floodlights. Van Merwijk continued: “On Monday we will work together with specialists to solve the problem”. Gio van Bronckhorst said: “The public is the biggest loser”, emphasising the importance of re-scheduling the match as soon as possible.

VVV trainer Maurice Steijn saw the funny side, jestingly requesting a regulatory 5-0 win to the visiting side. “I hear that in Belgium in such a situation the technical cause lies with the home playing club. I would sign for that”, Steijn continued with a wink, De Telegraaf reported. The match has been re-arranged for Thursday, December 6 at 8 pm.

Elsewhere on Matchday 11

AZ edged past an underwhelming De Graafschap after recording just one point from their previous four league matches. Mats Seuntjens’ penalty with fifteen minutes to go was the decisive goal but the home side was dominant throughout. Oussama Idrisski was dangerous and created a few half chances alongside Seuntijens. De Graafschap’s failure to record a shot on target epitomised their struggles. AZ are up to 6th and De Graafschap remain just above the relegation zone at 15th.

FC Emmen’s Reuven Niemeijer headed in an equaliser in the 88th minute at Heerenveen to record a point. Arber Zeneli put the hosts in front after half an hour in a typically open match at the Abe Lenstra Stadion. However, Heerenveen failed to record a win and continued their inconsistent start to the season. Heerenveen find themselves 9th in the Eredivisie table, and FC Emmen remain in the relegation zone in 16th.

Fortuna Sittard were brilliant in their 3-0 home victory over a sub-poor PEC Zwolle. Finn Stokkers set the tone with a third-minute goal from outside the box and Mark Diemers scored two second-half penalties to inflict misery on PEC.  Sittard move up to an impressive 10th and Zwolle sit 13th after Round 11.

Charlie Pritchard (9 Posts)