Eindhoven’s PSV were crowned premier league champions on Sunday in what many say was the most exciting end to a Dutch football season in the history of the game.
With three teams in the race for the title and separated only by goal difference, the fortunes of PSV, Ajax Amsterdam and Alkmaar AZ rose and fell by the minute as their separate games progressed.
On paper AZ the best chance: a far better goal difference and only lowly Excelsior of Rotterdam to beat. But perhaps hamstrung by nerves, the young AZ team quickly conceded a penalty which also resulted in the sending off of their goal keeper Boy Waterman. They pulled back an equaliser but then fell further behind, finally losing the game 3-2.
Ajax played against a weak Willem II of Tilburg. They got off to good start by scoring early and adding a second goal so that for a long time Ajax looked certain to win the championship as AZ continued to struggle against Excelsior. However Ajax failed to increase their lead and the final score remained 2-0.
It was PSV who surprised everybody, beating Vitesse of Arnhem 5-1, with the fifth goal coming in the final quarter of the game. This was a vital goal as it nudged the Eindhoven team past Ajax in the goal difference rankings.
But even in the dying minutes, AZ could have come back to win the championship. At 2-2, AZ saw a shot from their striker Danny Koevermans hit the post. Ajax also came close to scoring a third which would have thwarted PSV.
In the end it was just one goal difference that gave PSV their third consecutive title.
‘It was unreal but fantastic,’ PSV manager Ronald Koeman told Radio 1 after the game. It will be interesting to see if Koeman remains at the club after the board refused to support him earlier this week. There was discontent among some players about how the club could fritter away an 11-point lead in the league. PSV captain Phillip Cocu, who scored the winning goal on Sunday, repeated after the match that he is leaving the club, probably to play abroad.
AZ manager Louis van Gaal said his team did not perform as they should have. AZ will now focus on the league cup final against Ajax and the play-offs for the second Champions League place. Heerenveen, Ajax and FC Twente are also in the mix for the place.
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