The Dutch winter break has been and gone and with goals in all games the race for the 2014-15 Eredivisie championship is well and truly on.
Likewise, for those teams scrapping at the bottom of the league, the battle for safety has resumed, writes Neil Adderley
Ajax 2 – 0 FC Groningen: Wasteful Groningen let Ajax off the hook
Ajax claimed all three points but it was Groningen that left the Amsterdam ArenA wondering what might have been.
The visitors, with debutants Albert Rusnak and Simon Tibbling in the starting eleven, missed a host of chances to punish a stuttering Ajax.
Groningen should have been in front but Jarchinio Antonia, who would have a night to forget, could only fire over with the goal at his mercy.
Antonia’s miss seemed to shake Ajax out of their winter slumber and on 15 minutes Ricardo Kishna demonstrated how it should be done with a calm left foot finish.
The goal settled Ajax but Groningen were a threat on the break and should have gone in level at half time.
Once again Antonia was guilty of missing a golden opportunity as his weak shot was easily dealt with by Jasper Cillessen.
The ex-Go Ahead forward’s awful night was complete on 74 minutes as he failed to test the Ajax keeper when clean through on goal.
Groningen were eventually made to pay as defender Johan Kappelhof steered the ball past his own keeper to hand an out of sorts Ajax all three points.
PEC Zwolle 4 – 1 NAC Breda: New year, new manager, same result
Robert Maaskant’s first game in charge of NAC Breda ended in disappointment as PEC Zwolle scored three second half goals in eight minutes.
Despite going behind to a Bart van Hintum strike on just four minutes, Maaskant would have been pleased with his teams application and they were rewarded when Adnane Tighadouini found the top corner with a sublime strike.
However, once Jesper Drost finished from close range to restore the home teams advantage, NAC Breda’s resistance swiftly faded.
PEC Zwolle quickly added two more goals through Jody Lukoki and Ben Rienstra to leave NAC second bottom of the Eredivisie and new boss Maaskant with plenty of work on his hands.
PEC, who had a superb 2014, show no signs of fading as the comfortable win keeps Ron Jans’ men in an impressive fourth place in the table.
ADO Den Haag 2 – 2 Cambuur Leeuwarden: Two points dropped for frustrated ADO
ADO Den Haag twice allowed a lead to slip as Cambuur fought back to claim a point at the Kyocera Stadium.
The Haagenese got off to a flying start when, after only 26 seconds, Mike van Duinen burst through the Cambuur defence to score the quickest goal of the season so far.
The home team dominated proceedings but were left kicking themselves after Cambuur striker Bartholomew Ogbeche pounced on a loose ball to bring the sides level on 35 minute.
With the game suddenly stretched ADO quickly restored a one goal advantage.
Captain Roland Alberg collected a mishit Dion Malone shot and fired past the helpless Leonard Nienhuis in the Cambuur goal.
Shortly after the break Mike van Duinen turned from hero to villain as the forward missed a glorious opportunity to put some daylight between the teams.
ADO were eventually made to pay as Ogbeche bagged his and Cambuur’s second goal after good work from Marlon Pereira.
AZ Alkmaar 2 – 0 FC Dordrecht: AZ slip and slide past Dordrecht
Heavy snow prior to kick off left both teams struggling to deal with conditions at a wintery AFAS Stadion.
However, it would be AZ, and in particular Danish left back Simon Poulsen, who got to grips with the elements to take the spoils of a scrappy affair.
AZ broke the deadlock with the help of Filip Kurto after the unfortunate Dordrecht keeper totally missed the flight of Poulsen’s 25th minute drive.
And Kurto’s evening took a turn for the worse when he allowed another long range effort, this time from AZ skipper Nemanja Gudelj, to slip under his body and gift the home side a deserved win.
Vitesse Arnhem 0 – 1 PSV Eindhoven: Leaders hold on to retain four point gap
PSV came away with a scrappy victory but boss Philip Cocu wasn’t complaining as the league leaders maintained a four point cushion over title rivals Ajax.
The visitors started brightly and it took just nine minutes before early pressure told.
Luuk de Jong was denied by Vitesse No.1 Eloy Room but the keeper could do nothing to prevent Adam Maher’s miscued effort finding the net.
Both Room and PSV stopper Jeroen Zoet had to be on top of their game as both teams pushed forward.
Zoet firstly denying Zakaria Labyad with a smart stop before Room expertly pushed Memphis Depay’s goal-bound free kick around the post.
After Luuk de Jong hit the post, when it seemed easier to score, Vitesse turned the screw on PSV but Cocu’s men stood firm to grind out what could be a crucial win in the Eredivisie title race.
Willem II 1 – 0 Go Ahead Eagles: Willem II end turbulent week with dominant win
Despite being caught in the eye of a match fixing storm the Tilburgers produced a dominant display to pile more misery on Go Ahead Eagles.
Ben Sahar and Samuel Armenteros both came close to giving Willem II a much deserved first half lead, and the home side’s pressure finally paid off when Robert Braber rose highest to head home the only goal of the game on the hour mark.
Struggling Go Ahead, who have now lost five in a row, struck the post with a free kick but ultimately had no answer to Braber’s goal.
And with 15 minutes to play the Eagles task was made even more difficult when substitute Giliano Wijnaldum was shown his second yellow card of the match.
Willem II move up to a respectable 10th in the Eredivisie while Go Ahead Eagles desperate run of form leaves them in a precarious looking 16th place.
FC Utrecht 1 – 2 Heerenveen: Smash and grab at Stadion Galgenwaard
FC Utrecht were left ruing a host of missed chances as Heerenveen punished the home team to claim all three points.
Kristoffer Petterson was the first guilty party, failing to convert after Yassine Ayoub’s effort was saved by Kristoffer Nordfelt.
The Utrecht striker was quickly joined by Ramon Leeuwin, Edouard Duplan and Willem Janssen. All of whom failed to find a way past the Heerenveen keeper.
It was almost inevitable that the Frisian’s would make Utrecht pay and just four minutes into the second half Luciano Slagveer, cutting in from the right to send a low drive in off the post, did just that.
The pattern of the second half mirrored the first as Utrecht pushed for an equaliser only for Robbin Ruiter to bury Mark Uth’s cross to double the visitors lead.
Willem Janssen converted a last minute spot kick but it proved to be no more than a consolation for FC Utrecht.
Feyenoord 3 – 1 FC Twente: Rotterdammers too strong for Twente
Feyenoord kept their slim championship hopes alive with a deserved 3-1 victory over FC Twente.
Twente flooded the midfield to keep Feyenoord at bay and it was the Tukkers who almost broke the deadlock as Kenneth Vermeer brilliantly kept out Jesus Corona’s header.
On 36 minutes Feyenoord striker Colin Kazim-Richards made history by becoming the fifth consecutive Feyenoord player – after Pelle (x2), Vilhena and Te Vrede – to miss a penalty.
The Englishman’s blushes were immediately spared as Lex Immers finished smartly from the resulting corner.
Twente hit back five minutes into the second half as Vermeer failed to deal with a Luc Castaignos cross. Leaving Orlando Engelaar to tap in from close range.
However, the visitors reprieve was short lived as Jens Toornstra latched on to a Karim El Ahmadi shot before beating Sonny Stevens in the Twente goal.
Victory was sealed within a minute when Jean Paul Boetius slid in a Kazim-Richards cross.
Feyenoord leapfrog PEC back into third place while defeat in De Kuip means Twente drop a place to sixth.
Heracles Almelo 0 – 3 Excelsior: Excelsior win first Eredivisie away game since 2011
Excelsior travelled to Almelo without a win in seven games but an assured performance against struggling Heracles ensured a perfect start to 2015 for the Rotterdammers.
Heracles began the game on the front foot yet were unable to fully test the Excelsior back four.
And once Tom van Weert ghosted in at the far post to put Excelsior in front on 13 minutes, there only looked to be one winner.
Manager Marinus Dijkhuizen’s counter attacking game plan worked perfectly and with a little more care the match could have been won long before Daryl van Mieghem doubled the visitors lead.
Van Miegham was given the freedom of the Polman Stadion before lobbing the exposed Heracles keeper Dennis Telgenkamp.
With five minutes on the clock the home side’s fate was finally sealed as Excelsior substitute Carlo de Reuver made it 3-0 to the visitors with his very first touch.
Excelsior’s first Eredivisie away win in almost four years opens up a four point gap on Heracles who remain in 15th place, just three points above the relegation zone.
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