Sparta complete fightback against Heracles to send Willem II down
Sparta Rotterdam secured their place in next season’s Eredivisie with a 3-1 win over relegation rivals Heracles, who dropped into the play-off spot on the last day of the season.
The Rotterdam club completed a remarkable recovery under new head coach Maurice Steijn, who has steered the team to a draw and three wins since taking over from Henk Fraser three weeks ago.
Belgian midfielder Arno Verscheuren broke the deadlock in Almelo on the stroke of half-time, before German duo Lennart Thy and Mario Engels sealed the victory in the second half.
Willem II were relegated despite winning 3-0 at home to Utrecht after the only other club they could overtake, Fortuna Sittard, won 1-0 at NEC thanks to an early goal by top scorer Zian Flemming.
Fortuna had their backs to the wall in the closing minutes as NEC poured forward in search of an equaliser that would have relegated their opponents. Goalkeeper Mattijs Branderhorst joined the attack and Flemming was one of several players to clear shots off the goal-line.
Heerenveen in play-offs
Heerenveen sealed the final European play-off berth by beating Go Ahead Eagles, one of five other clubs who had a chance of finishing eighth, with two headed goals by Sydney van Hooijdonk and a valedictory strike by Anthony Musaba.
Champions Ajax needed a late equaliser by Edson Alvarez to avoid defeat in their final league game after Vitesse Arnhem took a 2-1 lead early in the second half with two goals in four minutes by Lois Openda.
PSV needed a 73rd-minute goal by substitute Richard Ledezma at PEC Zwolle, who were already relegated, to win and finish the season just two points behind Ajax. PSV’s goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo held PEC at bay with 11 saves, while head coach Roger Schmidt was shown a yellow card in his final match in charge for remarks made to the fourth official.
Groningen, who were strong contenders for a play-off spot for much of the season, ended with a seventh successive defeat at home to Cambuur Leeuwarden, while Twente capped a fourth-placed campaign by beating Feyenoord 2-1 in De Kuip.
RKC Waalwijk beat AZ Alkmaar 3-1 to finish 10th, in between the other two promoted teams, Cambuur and NEC.
AZ Alkmaar 1-3 RKC Waalwijk
Feyenoord 1-2 Twente Enschede
Groningen 2-3 Cambuur Leeuwarden
Heerenveen 3-1 Go Ahead Eagles
Heracles Almelo 1-3 Sparta Rotterdam
NEC Nijmegen 0-1 Fortuna Sittard
PEC Zwolle 1-2 PSV EIndhoven
Vitesse Arnhem 2-2 Ajax
Willem II Tilburg 3-0 Utrecht
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