• Monday, 6 April 2009

    Trouble in Kerkrade: Eredivisie reviews

    NEC 1-1 Twente
    Utrecht 0-0 Groningen
    Heracles 1-1 Heerenveen
    AZ 4-1 Den Haag
    Sparta 0-2 PSV
    Roda 1-2 Ajax
    Volendam 2-1 Feyenoord
    Willem II 2-0 NAC
    Vitesse 0-0 De Graafschap

    The rumours had been circulating for some time that some or all of the clubs in the Limburg region - struggling for support and, therefore, cash - would have to merge. As anyone who remembers rugby league's grand merger plan, you'd be well aware of how this thorny issue gets fans exercised and it's not without reason. In the week, the merger between Roda JC and Fortuna Sittard was finalised and now just needs the nod from the KNVB - surely a formality - to go ahead. FC Sporting Limburg will be the result and it just remains to be seen if VVV and MVV are also absorbed into the resulting behemoth. Roda were in action at home to Ajax and the fans made their opposition to the plan known. A number of inventive banners were one thing, but more vocal and visible was the bombardment of seats onto the field of play when Ajax's second - a classic counter-attack featuring Luis Suarez's cunning and trickery and finished by Ismail Aissati - went in. Some of the Roda coaching staff went to appeal for calm, but it was pointless. The crowd would not be appeased and, after Sekou Cissé had got a goal back, the game rather petered out with the players choosing to play keep-ball down the other end of the field until Thomas Vermaelen's persistence persuaded the referee to blow for full-time with a couple of minutes of stoppage time still to play. The defeat leaves Roda in sixteenth and with the very real possibility of the unloved merged club starting life in the Eerstedivisie.

    Ajax, though, moved within a point of second placed Twente with that win as Steve McClaren's men could only draw at Nijmegen on Friday night. Blasie N'Kufo's run of 114 consecutive Eredivisie appearances ended due to a suspension and, without their talismanic striker, Twente struggled. Kenneth Perez's shot took a deflection off Marko Arnautovic's heels to open the scoring, but they couldn't add to it and paid the price when John Goossens fired home with eleven minutes remaining after being set up by Saidi Ntibazonkiza and Bas Sibum. Despite Youssef El Akchaoui getting sent off late on, NEC held on for a point which doesn't really help either side. Twente's dropped points meant that AZ could just about seal the title with a win over Den Haag. They turned round at half-time a goal behind to the obdurate ADO, Christian Kum with the goal. But it didn't take long for AZ to reassert themselves. Moussa Dembele equalised before ADO almost retook the lead. But goals from Maarten Martens, Mounir El Hamdaoui (his 21st of the season) and Nick van der Velden sealed a big win. ADO remain the last team to beat the Alkmaarders, 27 games ago, and it'll only take a maximum of two more wins for their second ever title.

    Heerenveen dropped yet more points, drawing away at lowly Heracles. Kristian Bak Nielsen's early goal looked to be enough for a win for Heerenveen, but Mark Jan Fledderus levelled it with a few moments to go. PSV kept up the pressure on them for the last automatic Europa League spot with a comfortable win over Sparta. The Eindhoveners wasted a host of chances, but Balasz Dzsudzsak and Ola Toivonen managed to convert two of them, leaving Sparta in big trouble. NAC's hopes of European football took a dent as they were beaten by Willem II in Tilburg and it could have been worse had Arjan Swinkels not contrived to miss a penalty. Volendam beat Feyenoord to lift themselves off the bottom, two Dominique van Dijk goals responding to Roy Makaay's opener, as De Graafschap could only grind out a 0-0 draw under the Gelredome roof in Armhem. As non events go, this was hard to beat, but Utrecht and Groningen did their best as they also failed to muster a goal between them.

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