Main pic: Ziyech and Tadic brothers from different mothers
The Dutch football fan has gone through a lot these last years. Drama in Europe, disaster with the national team, Ziyech going for Morocco and even Amrabat preferring the country of his parents.
How things can change.
Now, with Ronald Koeman and a plethora of young talents on the up and up for the national team, we an all feel positive again. De Ligt, Van de Beek, Bergwijn, Hateboer, Promes, Memphis… And now Frenkie de Jong is part of the prelim squad.
And although Ziyech is a bad loss, Sophyan Amrabat might not be so much. The young midfielder has issues at Feyenoord, he doesn’t handle a bench role well and feels misled and is on his way out.
With Feyenoord, we do have one more reason why Dutch fans should feel aggrieved. Four trophies in three years might look ok, but the Stadium club is losing ground (and sympathy) fast, with some lacklustre performances since winning the title.
Amrabat in Feyenoord’s jersey
Yes, they won the national cup last season, but they also finished 4th in the league with a huge gap between them and PSV. And yes, they won the Cruyff Shield this season but not with amazing football so much.
When playing Trencin from Slovakia (with a budget comparable to Sparta), the former champions were outclassed. After the home game (yes, they created 28 chances and scored 1, but ended the game 1-1) they received the scorn of the nation, as they all said “we are proud of what we did today” in the camera, without a blush on their face. Youngsters like Berghuis and veterans like Van Persie. “Yes we are out of Europe but this performance allows us something to build on”. What??
Creating 28 opportunities is good, but only scoring one is simply horrific! Taking an opportunity is also a quality!
Feyenoord also lost their first competition match and now finally was able to get a win, at home, vs lowly Excelsior. And even though the final result was 3-0, it wasn’t a clear cut win. The third goal came really late and Excelsior created too many chances (on super hit on the post) for comfort.
Robin and Feyenoord still stumbling vs Excelsior
But Feyenoord doesn’t look like a team with a lot of confidence and the vibe doesn’t appear too positive. Amrabat has demanded a transfer as he’s sick of playing second fiddle. The former Utrecht midfielder was praised last season when he made his move to Feyenoord (a 4 mio euro deal) but while he was told Clasie would not come to Rotterdam and El Ahmadi’s spot was his, Clasie was signed anyway and the not-yet-fit Southampton loanie was not only offered a starting spot, but was also made vice captain! Amrabat had enough. Today, his move to Club Brugge was made public (for 2,5 mio euros…).
Another player who was brought in with lots of expectations was former club kid JP Boetius. Brought in from the cold (FC Basel) and now side-tracked after refusing to train (some weeks back) and now for collecting a stupid red card. Coach van Bronckhorst has enough of Boetius and he too is allowed to move away. The third potential player leaving is Tonny Vilhena. He is high on the list of several French and German clubs and when the price is right, Feyenoord will most likely let him go.
Another tough season ahead for Feyenoord? Focusing on the national cup again?
The two teams most likely to battle for the title, Ajax and PSV, are well on their way to make it to the Champions League.
So, how good is it to dream a bit about two Dutch clubs making it into the Champions League?
Ironically, this is the first time the Dutch champs need to qualify to get in, and many people feared we might end up with zero reps in the CL, but with PSV doing good business vs BATE and Ajax winning at home vs Kiev, we might have two!
Wild man Van Bommel preaching restrain
Both clubs went in with the confidence they needed. PSV in an away game, only 3 days after a league match. But they did ever so well. BATE seemed to start much more aggressive as expected and got ahead in the game. It took some time for PSV to wake up, it seemed. To match the level of aggression and energy, but from a football perspective, PSV outclassed BATE. BATE could have had the 2-0 but failed to capitalise. Luuk de Jong tried to trick the ref for a pen but the PSV captain got rewarded with a yellow card for diving. Not much later, PSV did get that penalty for a hands ball. Pereiro scored a solid 1-1.
PSV was the stronger team in the second half but failed to put a big gap between themselves and BATE. Luuk de Jong played a tough match and he missed a clear cut chance, but Lozano demonstrated his class with a very cool curler. Hleb’s equaliser was the result of a Zoet howler. A highly embarrassing move by the experienced PSV goalie. The ball fell in front of him. A BATE forward appeared to lunge in but was too far away. Still, Zoet clearly afraid for his teeth decided to push the ball girly-style, right on the instep of Aleksandr Hleb: 2-2. Not Zoet’s strongest move.
Everyone expected that to be the final score, as the equaliser came with mere minutes to play, but in the first attack after that goal, Angelino attacked yet again on the left flank and his gifted left foot delivered a peach of a cross. Sub Donyell Malen had just come on and he sprinted inbetween the two centre backs and headed home the winner.
Donyell Malen scoring the winner, his first senior goal
A just reward for Van Bommel’s men (and boys) although PSV could have won with a bigger margin.
I personally also found the dive by both De Jong and Lozano (second half) worrying. In particular captain De Jong… He was on on goal, but he lacked the confidence to actually go for his chances and decided to try and trick the ref. A bit of a disgrace. Zoet’s howler is also something I would be very worried about. A goalie can make a mistake. Why not? But to so obviously decide to not throw your body on the line and to bump the ball like a girl back into the field. Whoa…
Mark van Bommel was realistic: “I said before the game, this BATE is not an easy opponent. We were clearly too impressed in the first stage. That can happen, but I am particularly happy with the way we turned that around. We conceded first and seemed a bit out of whack but we fought ourselves back into the match. We should have scored the 1-3 at 1-2. We needed to put daylight between us and now this is typical, what happened: we didn’t score, but they did. I was already at peace with 2-2 and was delighted to see that my players wanted more of the game in those last minutes. I’m happy. Although I also know we aren’t there yet.”
Ajax had a similar sort of match, in terms of vulnerability in combination with excellent play on the ball. With some key differences: Ajax played at home and Ajax got the first goal. Donny van de Beek was punished a couple of times by Ten Hag for poor performances and seemed to have lost his starting spot. With Neres injured, Van de Beek was considered the best replacement due to his runs in behind.
And it was a beautiful passage of play that got the ball in the box right in the stride of the young midfielder who scored the first goal and demonstrated his joy on the pitch as if Ajax won the Champions League.
Ten Hag telling Blind to speed it up a bit
Ajax had a wonderful start but couldn’t score the second. Somehow, Dynamo got back into the game and exposed Ajax’ vulnerability at the back. With set pieces, Ajax uses a mix of zonal and man marking and got it horribly wrong. Schone and De Jong cover the zone at the first post and the rest of the team marks their man. But when De Ligt was blocked by an opponent, Kiev got a free header. Onana was able to parry the ball but Mazraoui was ball watching and his direct opponent got a tap in.
Still, Ajax was in charge. They kept on going, led by a combi of Ziyech and Tadic on fire. Ten Hag had instructed the team to play wide via the full backs, so Tadics and Ziyech can tuck in, with De Jong and Schone on hand in midfield to guard the balance of the team. This resulted in that first goal and Ziyech’s second goal was a bit lucky (deflection) but was also due to Ziyech desire to get the ball before the opponent could react: 2-1. Left back Tagliafico had the third assist on Tadic, who’s crafty flick resulted in the 3-1. After that, Ajax had two balls on the woodwork (header Huntelaar and shot Ziyech) and could and should have scored more.
However, Ajax’s also demonstrated vulnerability in their defense, with Blind and Schone not the quickest and Frenkie de Jong – no matter how good on the ball – lacking the energy and ruthlessness you’d expect from a holding midfielder in challenges.
Still some work to be done for Ten Hag, but the 3-1 is a perfect foundation for the team’s return. “I think we saw a wonderful game. Good spectacle, high paced and we created a lot of opportunities. We could have scored 6 today and maybe should have. But Dynamo also demonstrated to be of good quality. We aren’t there yet. I particularly liked the interplay between the team and the fans, it was almost a perfect night.”
Donny van de Beek was given a standing ovation when he was subbed in the last minute. Ten Hag: “Yes, I did that to demonstrate to Donny that I love him and I rate him high. The fact that he doesn’t always start has nothing to do with that. He’s important for the team and one of my key players.”