Alex Royal visited Rotterdam at the weekend to watch Excelsior v AZ Alkmaar and Sparta Rotterdam v ADO Den Haag. He gives his views on the two games and interviews AZ Alkmaar left-back Thomas Ouwejan. 

Rotterdam Calling

With Middlesbrough beating Leeds on Friday night, I had a free weekend, something as rare as a hen’s tooth. I jumped at the chance of doing another two Eredivisie games. There was a slight change to my travel plans with the recent Beast from the East. I didn’t land at Schiphol until 2 on Saturday, so I decided to head straight to Rotterdam.

Excelsior vs AZ

My first game of my weekend was at the home of the smallest club in the Eredivisie, both in terms of budget and stadium size. Excelsior are a club that continue to punch above their weight and are a team that I have a lot of respect for. AZ have been outstanding all season, and I was looking forward to watching them for the second time this season. I had sorted my ticket out prior to the game, with the club’s ticketing staff being very helpful. I collected my ticket from main reception, for the Robin van Persie tribune. Their naming of the stand after him was cool, especially as he only played for Excelsior’s youth team for 2 years.

RVP Tribune

First Half

The game started with both sides coming out and attacking, and it was Excelsior who had the first chance after 5 minutes, with Messaoud forcing Marco Bizot into action after a nice 1-2 with van Duinen. Immediately after, Til hit the post from the edge of the area after Excelsior failed to clear Jahanbakhsh’s tempting delivery away properly. Shortly after, van Duinen then made Bizot work again, after good play from Elbers down the right hand side.

The game ebbed and flowed, but it was AZ who managed to gain the advantage after 20 minutes. Jahanbakhsh’s low, driven cross diverted in off the helpless keeper, Theo Zwarthoed. The home side responded really well to going behind and forced a string of smart saves from Marco Bizot, who looked unbeatable. Alireza Jahanbakhsh then had the freedom of the right hand side to make it 2-0, after Excelsior left back Jeffrey Fortes was caught out of position, and the Iranian kept his cool, slotting under Zwarthoed.

Second Half

It took until the hour mark for the game to really get going in the second half, this coincided with the introduction of Levi Garcia, on loan from the visitors. The Trinidadian looked keen, lively and a real threat down the right hand side. Seconds after his arrival, the hosts won a free kick and the tempting delivery found Mattheij at the back post, with Wout Weghorst performing heroics to stop the ball going over the line. It didn’t take much longer for Excelsior to get their goal, after good work from Garcia, who cut the ball back to edge of the box for Messaoud to curl a fine strike past Bizot. Excelsior huffed and puffed but couldn’t find the equaliser that their performance merited.

Summary

An exciting game, Excelsior showed great character in the second half and will feel that they deserved at least a point. The news that Mitchell van der Gaag is to leave at the end of the season will come as no surprise to a few, as he has been constantly linked with the Vitesse job.

Sparta vs ADO

The second game of my weekend was at Het Kasteel, the home of Sparta Rotterdam. Sparta took on ADO Den Haag in what was a crucial game for both teams, albeit for very different reasons. Sparta have been rock bottom of the table pretty much all season, whereas ADO have silenced many critics and have firmly put themselves into the European play-off reckoning, gaining an outstanding point away at Ajax last week thanks to a gallant performance. Like the other game, I had sorted my ticket out prior to arrival, again by contacting the club directly.

First Half

The first half was all about the men from The Hague, with them taking the lead through Erik Falkenburg after 6 minutes. Moments before they had a goal ruled out after Nick Kuipers bundled the ball out of Jannik Huth’s hands. It was clear to see why Sparta are the Eredivisie’s lowest scorers, lacking creativity and finishing prowess.

Second Half

If Sparta’s first half performance was anything to go by, a comfortable ADO victory was on the cards. A half-time bollocking from Dick Advocaat along with a double switch: Mühren and Verhaar replacing Dos Santos and Goodwin, saw Sparta come out all guns blazing. They duly got a deserved leveller through Michiel Kramer on the hour mark. Huth pulled off an amazing reflex save from Bjorn Johnsen’s bullet header 10 minutes later, a game changing moment. With 7 minutes left Robert Mühren kept his cool to beat Zwinkels and put the hosts in front. ADO bought on Delano Ladan in attempt to salvage a draw, but Sparta’s defence held firm for a vital victory.

Summary

If you had to coin an idiom to sum up this game, it would be the game of two halves. ADO were completely dominant for the first 45 and should have gone in 2-0 up, with that man Falkenburg hitting the post. I must give Sparta and Advocaat lot of credit for the fighting spirit and drive they showed after the break, gaining a crucial 3 points in their battle against relegation.

Nice view of the game!

 

Thomas Ouwejan Interview

After the game on Saturday I managed to grab a quick chat with the up-and-coming AZ left back. Thomas has been very good to me ever since I met him back in December, at AZ vs Heerenveen. Born and raised in Heiloo, just outside of Alkmaar, Ouwejan has been with the Cheeseheads since he was 11. The script of my chat with him is below.

AR: Excelsior are always a tough team to play against, so well done on the win. It shows that you can win ugly as well. What are your overall thoughts on it?

TO: They are a very physical side, they have big, strong players so it is always a difficult game. Going in at half time 2-0 up you think the job is done, but then they made it 2-1 and the draw was a real possibility.

AR: Alireza, he brings a different dimension to the team, and was outstanding again tonight. He must be a pleasure to play with?

TO: Yeah, he’s brilliant and it helps that he took both chances in the first half to make it 2-0.

AR: As for reaching the Beker final, you must be keen to make amends for last year’s final defeat?

TO: Last year wasn’t fun, we lost the final and the play off final, so we want to win something this season!

AR:  Along with playing in De Kuip, something that you have not done before?

TO: It’s exciting to play there, especially in a final, something you always dream about as a kid.

AR:  Your future, where do you think it lies, here with AZ or elsewhere?

TO: Look, right now I just want to play as much as possible here. If a big club comes along then I’ll look into it, but right now I am just focusing on AZ and doing the best I can.

I am very grateful to Thomas for his time after the game. It was a pleasure to meet his parents as well, they should be very proud of him!

AZ continue to Impress

Ouwejan asides, AZ boast a huge foray of young talent. Teun Koopmeiners and Guus Til are just a couple who will be playing in better leagues in a few seasons, with the latter being touted for an Oranje call up. One thing that is crystal clear is that the whole squad are blossoming under the free-flowing game of John van den Brom.

As I said earlier, AZ have been outstanding all season, with Fredrik Midtsjo particularly impressing me. A holding midfielder, former Rosenborg man Midtsjo runs the engine of the AZ midfield. The Trondheim outfit already have good links to Alkmaar through Markus Henriksen and Jonas Svensson.

I should of course mention Wout Weghorst and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who have both been prolific. Their goals alone account to 46% of AZ’ Eredivisie goals this season!

Summary

I thoroughly enjoyed the two games I went to – attacking and enjoyable along with being great adverts for the Eredivisie! I’m back over for ADO-AZ and VVV-Twente in 4 weeks time.

As always, I am very grateful for shares and comments on my work. Constructive criticism is most welcome and I hope you all enjoyed reading.




Alex Royal (6 Posts)

22 year old from the UK, Middlesbrough fan but have a huge passion for Dutch football in general, especially the Eredivisie. I try and get over when it doesn't clash with Middlesbrough games.