In his new weekly column, Charlie Pritchard pick’s his biggest talking points from the weekend’s Eredivisie action. 

“Congratulations on your record boy, I would have loved to take it away from you”. De Graafschap coach Henk de Jong had just seen his side beaten 4-1 by PSV Eindhoven at De Vijverberg. De Jong did not conduct a prickly post-match interview where he lamented his team’s missed opportunities. Instead, the coach partook in a joint press conference with PSV coach Mark van Bommel. In the press conference, De Jong offered his congratulations to Van Bommel who had just become the first debuting coach in Eredivisie history to win his first 12 matches.

At the press conference, De Jong said with a smile: “He [Van Bommel] was in my class four years ago. At least I was allowed to stand in front of the class”. De Jong was impressed with Van Bommel’s development as a coach even though it was to the detriment of De Graafschap on the night. The two managers shook hands for the cameras, with Van Bommel now confidently standing at the top the class in the Eredivisie.

However, PSV’s victory over De Graafschap on Saturday night was by no means routine. The first half was slightly disappointing from a PSV perspective taking a 2-1 lead into half-time. Luuk de Jong volleyed PSV in front from Nick Viergever’s cross but their lead did not last long.

Furdjel Narsingh was a constant threat for De Graafschap during the first half. The forward cut inside off the right, producing a delicate side-footed through ball for Youssef El Jebli who finished easily.

Yet Steven Bergwijn returned to goal-scoring form for PSV with perfect timing just before the half-hour mark. The Dutchman received the ball on the edge of the box, feinted to shoot on his right foot, then shifted onto his left to arrow a shot across goal past an off-balance Hidde Jurjus. It was the winger’s first goal for almost two months. The maverick Bergwijn now looks like he is returning to the scintillating form he demonstrated earlier in the season.

PSV had to wait until the 77th minute to kill the game off. Substitute Donyell Malen scored brilliantly for the third after De Jong’s incisive through ball. PSV got their fourth when Hirving Lozano’s quick free-kick sent Bergwijn in on goal. The winger then unselfishly squared the ball to De Jong, who finished into an empty net.

Van Bommel said after the match: “I am satisfied but not about the first half. We had to defend until half-time”. De Graafschap were gutsy in attack and played better than their league position (17th) suggests. In response to achieving a new personal record, Van Bommel shrugged it off, claiming “it’s only statistics”. “The most important thing is of course that we have won again”, he reinforced. Pondering for a second, Van Bommel said, “but a record is unique”, admitting with a grin.

Van de Beek shines as Ajax realise true potential with a rout in Rotterdam

Ajax head into the international break in fantastic shape after overpowering Excelsior 7-1 in Rotterdam on Sunday afternoon.

Coach declared pre-match: “PSV will lose points somewhere. I am only working on my own team”. On Excelsior, Ten Hag’s assessment was that they would make the game “very compact, so the spaces will be small”. From an attacking perspective, Ten Hag insisted, “Donny van de Beek has to make a connection with Kasper Dolberg up front”.

Ten Hag’s wishes indeed came true multiple times during Ajax’s stellar performance. It was simply their best display of the season. Recently, Ten Hag has demanded more from his attacking players, criticising them after home victories against Feyenoord and Willem II. Although Ajax failed to keep a clean sheet against Excelsior, their seven-goal haul will have delighted Ten Hag.

Van de Beek executed Ten Hag’s orders faultlessly. The midfielder burst forward to slide Ajax into the lead after half an hour following a perfectly weighted pass from Dušan Tadić. Van de Beek played with expression thereafter, winning a free-kick outside the box just before half-time. Lassa Schöne sumptuously curled the dead ball past Sonny Stevens to send Ajax two up at the break. The goal was Schöne’s eleventh free-kick strike in the Eredivisie since 2012, more than any other player.

Van de Beek added Ajax’s third goal early in the second half, converting Rasmus Kristensen’s exquisite cross from the right. Although Excelsior made it 3-1 through Ali Messaoud shortly after, Ajax outclassed their hosts for the rest of the game. As Ten Hag had demanded before the game, Ajax played with tremendous width. The use of wide areas penetrated Excelsior’s defence exhaustingly throughout the second half.

After right-back Kristensen’s brilliant assist, left-back Nico Tagliafico was central to the fourth goal. The Argentine slid into a tackle on the left, recovering the ball to find Van de Beek in the box. Van de Beek showed superb awareness, nonchalantly backheeling to Kasper Dolberg, who slid the ball past Stevens for Ajax’s fourth. As Ten Hag had wanted, Van de Beek and Dolberg linked up impressively to break through the Excelsior backline.

Goals five, six, and seven arrived in the ensuing half an hour courtesy of a Jerdy Schouten own goal and strikes from Hakim Ziyech and David Neres. Ziyech fabulously exchanged passes with Tagliafico and drove into the Excelsior box, pounding his strike across Stevens with his left-foot. Ajax had executed Ten Hag’s plan to a tee and with such a devastating performance, will have boosted their morale after some lacklustre second-half performances in recent weeks.

Groningen spark jubilant scenes with a home victory against Heerenveen

Groningen coach Danny Buijs said last Friday that games against Heerenveen are always “special matches”. The ‘Derby of the North’ has historically been a competitive occasion in the Eredivisie, but Sunday was Groningen’s day. The hosts finally gave their fans something to shout about with a 2-0 victory over Heerenveen. After going winless in September and October, Groningen now have two victories in November. It is fair to say that Buijs and his team now resent the timing of the latest international break, coming at the time of their best form so far this season.

Buijs also rebuked the claim that the Groningen fans have suddenly found faith back in the team. “If you look at the start of the season, they have always stood by the team en masse”, Buijs declared. Groningen flew out of the blocks against Heerenveen, haring down the wings with renewed vigour. Django Warmerdam was excellent, making up for his early missed chance with a looping header for Groningen’s opener. Warmerdam leapt highest from Mimoun Mahi’s teasing cross from the right, directing his header over and away from Warner Hahn.

If the Groningen fans were growing anxious in the following ten minutes, then Ritsu Doan emphatically eased their doubts. The young Japanese star cut inside from the right and unleashed a rocket which thrashed into the top left corner of Hahn’s goal. Doan has already grown a loyal Japanese fan following in Groningen and thrilled them with his latest spectacular strike. Valentijn Driessen of De Telegraaf said after the match: “For this pearl, millions will soon be coming in”. Driessen is correct, but for now, Doan belongs to Groningen. The winger will be integral for Groningen moving forward. Buijs cannot allow inconsistency to creep back into the team following such positive results.

Heerenveen coach Jan Olde Riekerink lamented his team’s helplessness in the face of Groningen’s first half dynamism. “We were too passive in possession”, the Heerenveen coach said. “Groningen were much more aggressive and had much more to win”. Defensive frailty has become worryingly familiar at Heerenveen but Olde Riekerink stressed the importance of remaining calm. “Being angry is easy, but I have to help them”, the trainer concluded. Heerenveen have conceded 27 goals already this season and although they have scored more goals than the four teams directly above them in the table, they are letting themselves down at the back too regularly.

Feyenoord edge past Heracles to cement 3rd place position

Gio van Bronckhorst effectively conceded the Eredivisie title race before Feyenoord’s trip to Heracles Almelo on Sunday afternoon. Van Bronckhorst declared: “It is important to win over your competitors”, perhaps reluctant to admit that Heracles, not the tremendous PSV and Ajax, were Feyenoord’s nearest rivals at this point in the season.

Van Bronckhorst turned the focus towards what Feyenoord can do themselves whilst hoping that PSV and Ajax slip up. “With a lot of pace and movement, I hope to see that [playing well] again now”. Van Bronckhorst’s players gave him what he wanted and more in an impressive 2-0 victory. It was the first time since December 2017 that Feyenoord had recorded a clean sheet away from home.

Feyenoord went 1-0 up in the second half when Nicolai Jørgensen’s header proved too powerful for Alexander Merkel to clear off his line. Merkel’s attempted clearance comically clattered in off the bar via the back of Janis Blaswich in the Heracles goal. Feyenoord’s second arrived shortly after in a much more resounding manner.

Jens Toornstra came into the midfield in place of captain Robin van Persie and got himself his third away goal of the season. Steven Berghuis played a sumptuous through ball over the top of the Heracles defence and found Calvin Verdonk, who squared to Toornstra for an easy tap-in. Berghuis dictated the tempo going forward and was excellent despite the absence of his usually intuitive relationship with Van Persie. Feyenoord go three points clear of Heracles to solidify third position and have a game in hand against VVV Venlo to be played in December.

Thrilling Limburg derby sees Venlo up to 5th

The stakes were particularly high in Saturday’s Limburg derby. It was the first top-flight meeting between VVV Venlo and Fortuna Sittard for 26 years. Venlo returned to winning ways with a 3-2 victory, home comforts proving valuable once again against Sittard.

Sittard struck first when Finn Stokkers profited from Jerold Promes’ error to volley the visitors into the lead. However, just 90 seconds later, Venlo stalwart Ralf Seuntjens levelled. Peniel Mlapa’s shot was parried away by Alexei Koselev but into the path Seuntjens who gratefully tapped home Venlo’s equaliser. Mlapa went one better when he fabulously volleyed Venlo into the lead just before half-time from a long through-in. Personally, for Mlapa, he finally appears to have settled at Venlo after his loan move from Dynamo Dresden.

Mlapa added his second and put the hosts in a commanding position within two minutes of the restart. The striker raced clear of Wessel Dammers and coolly went around the onrushing Koselev to finish into an empty net. Mlapa now has four goals in his last three Eredivisie matches and with Jay-Roy Grot and Jonathan Opoku for company, his forward partners offer a decent threat in Maurice Steijn’s Venlo side.

Andre Vidigal’s goal back for Sittard in the 86th minute proved too late to salvage a result. Venlo survived late pressure from the visitors and Steijn was delighted at the full-time whistle as his side went up to fifth, above AZ Alkmaar and Vitesse due to their game in hand.

However, Steijn accentuated the importance of not getting carried away with VVV’s position after eleven matches. “Let’s not cheer too soon”, Steijn advised, “our objective remains enforcement”. To the delight of the VVV fans, they can be safe in the knowledge that Steijn is aligned with the club’s long-term vision of Eredivisie consolidation. Victories such as the one over Sittard on Saturday contributed to the development of Steijn’s endearing legacy at VVV.

Elsewhere on Matchday 12

On Saturday night, Leonid Slutsky and Dick Advocaat were reunited as Vitesse defeated FC Utrecht 2-1 in Arnhem. Goals from Bryan Linssen and Martin Ødegaard were enough to see the hosts over the line despite a late rally by Utrecht. Substitutes Lukas Gortler and Cyriel Dessers combined well to get Utrecht back into the game with 15 minutes left to play. However, Gyrano Kerk’s effort late on was not enough to get past Eduardo as Slutsky’s side won their third home game in a row. Slutsky’s Vitesse sits 7th and Advocaat’s Utrecht are just behind them in 8th after ending a five-match unbeaten run.

On Friday night, Willem II won their first match since August courtesy of Fran Sol’s brace at PEC Zwolle. Damil Dankerlui and Sol sent the visitors 2-0 up but Vito van Crooij’s cool finish fleetingly got PEC back into the game. Sol was the man of the match, leaping highest from a corner to head Willem back into a two-goal lead in the second half. Zian Fleming’s header made the score 3-2 and in the final seconds of the match, Gustavo Hamer’s free-kick rattled the crossbar agonisingly for PEC, who fell to their seventh defeat of the season. Willem II are up to 11th and PEC sit precariously in 15th, one point above the relegation zone.

FC Emmen were mightily impressive as they dispatched of NAC Breda 2-0 on Saturday evening. In what was Emmen’s first home win of the season, left-back Caner Cavlan put in an excellent second-half performance to inspire the hosts to victory. Cavlan profited from some scrappy goalmouth action to fire Emmen into a lead after an hour. The left-back turned provider with two minutes left to play, assisting Jafar Arias who struck home inside the box. Emmen are up to 12th whilst NAC fall to 17th, failing to build upon their heroics against Heracles on Matchday 11.

Finally, AZ Alkmaar recorded a narrow 1-0 victory away to ADO Den Haag on Sunday lunchtime. AZ failed to translate their dominance into goals during an uneventful first half but struck early in the second period though Guus Til. The goal was not pretty, but AZ coach John van den Brom will not care one bit as his side are up to 6th. ADO sit 13th and have only gained one point in their last four games.

Charlie Pritchard (9 Posts)