Following last week’s results which saw Feyenoord lose away at Heerenveen and PSV drop a single point on their travels against Roda JC whilst Ajax and Vitesse Arnhem both recorded wins the title looked to have swung in the direction of Amsterdam. Matchday twenty nine has seen no change in the shape of the league with all four of the aforementioned teams winning their matches. With only five games remaining for all teams time is running out for the chasing pack to close the gap on leaders Ajax.
Feyenoord just as they had in Matchday twenty eight were in action before their nearest rivals with the Rotterdammers playing host to VVV-Venlo at De Kuip on Friday evening. Feyenoord could have been accused of not really moving past second gear in their last three league matches before the visit of VVV with Ronald Koeman bemoaning the performance against Heerenveen with his side unable to get out of the second gear which they had become accustomed to which undoubtedly contributed to their downfall. Feyenoord entered the game against VVV determined to improve their level of performance but without their midfield duo of Jordy Clasie and Lex Immers struggled once again. However as has happened so often for Feyenoord this year when things aren’t quite going the way of the De Kuip giants, travelled Italian striker Graziano Pelle has come up with a goal to lift his team out of a tough spot and he did the same this past Friday evening with a strike in the nineteenth minute of play.
Clear chances were hard to come by for Feyenoord without the midfield creativity of Immers and the holding abilities of Clasie when sitting deeper in the midfield and Ronald Koeman after the full time whistle did little to hide his frustration “This was a very poor performance and it seemed that last week’s defeat [at Heerenveen] reduced our confidence.” However despite Koeman’s disappointment in the performance it did in terms of a result put pressure on Ajax, PSV and Vitesse who were still left to play.
Vitesse Arnhem played host to NAC Breda with the rank outsiders for the championship once again relying on Wilfried Bony to aid them in their title charge with the in demand Ivorian striker adding another two goals to his season tally as Vitesse ran out 3-0 winners against NAC. The visitors Breda looked set to try and defend a draw right from the off before their resolve was broke by Bony in the twenty eighth minute following some smart work for Chelsea loanee Gael Kakuta. Vitesse missed midfield playmaker Theo Janssen through suspension but still managed to create a great deal with Mike Havenaar continuing his impressive recent run of form from the attacking midfield position. Renato Ibarra doubled Vitesse’s lead just five minutes after the restart with NAC Breda being caught cold following the fifteen minute rest period and the rout was completed by Bony who registered his twenty ninth league goal this campaign just nine minutes after Ibarra’s strike.
PSV Eindhoven were next on the weekends match card with Dick Advocaat’s men having to travel to Koning Willem II Stadion to face Willem II on Saturday evening. It was imperative for Dick Advocaat’s men to keep pressure on Ajax with his side playing host to Frank de Boer’s men next weekend. PSV continued to miss Dries Mertens due to his suspension and Tim Matavz was brought into the starting line-up in place of the Belgian international with Memphis Depay being relegated to the substitute’s bench. PSV despite controlling possession had to wait until injury time in the first half to break the deadlock with the veteran Mark van Bommel, who has been fantastic in his role as the experienced head in the Eindhoven midfield this year, put the visitors ahead with a superb long distance strike from a difficult angle which flew past Willem goalkeeper David Meul low down to his right hand side.
PSV were pegged back ten minutes after the restart through Jordens Peters strike to make the score 1-1. Dick Advocaat must have feared a repeat of the previous weekend’s result in Kerkrade against Roda however his worries would have been eased by Ola Toivonen’s goal fourteen minutes from time with the Sweden international continuing an impressive run of goal scoring form which has seen him register three league goals in two matches. Timothy Derjick given a start at the heart of the PSV defence rewarded Advocaat for his faith in him with a goal in the eighty second minute which secured the three points for PSV which means they kept pace with Ajax ahead of their meeting next weekend.
Ajax after a simple 4-1 victory against NEC Nijmegen last weekend the Amsterdammers were given yet another easy fixture this time against Heracles Almelo at the Amsterdam Arena. Ajax who prior to Matchday 29 found themselves at the top of table three points clear of second placed PSV went into the kick off with Heracles level on points with the Eindhoven outfit as a result of their rivals playing their fixture against Willem II the day before.
It took Ajax just thirteen minutes to go ahead with Danish holding midfielder Lasse Schöne with a powerful finish from inside the Heracles penalty area following an absorbing Ajax passing move. Controversy marred the fixture in the forty eighth minute however when Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer was given a straight red card for bringing down Heracles attacker Geoffrey Castillon which will see him miss next weekend’s fixture with PSV as a result of his two game suspension. Ajax however undeterred by having to play with a man less doubled their lead in the fifty second minute through Kolbeinn Sigþórsson. With Heracles all but out of the contest Ajax never really had to overexert themselves I’m sure much to the frustration of the on looking PSV, Feyenoord and Vitesse and the Amsterdam club were to score two further goals via Ryan Babel and Christian Eriksen in the seventy fifth and eighty fourth minutes respectively to send Ajax three points clear of PSV once again ahead of their crunch meeting at Philips Stadion on Sunday.
Whilst PSV host Ajax this weekend, fellow title challengers Feyenoord and Vitesse face away trips to RKC and Roda JC respectively knowing full well regardless of the result in Eindhoven on Sunday they must register three points in their matches to keep their title aspirations alive.