Football in the Netherlands resumed normal service on Friday night in Deventer, as Go Ahead Eagles faced AZ Alkmaar at De Adelaarshorst in the first Eredivisie fixture of 2017.
The home side, who remain bottom of the Eredivisie, strengthened significantly over the winter break, including the arrival of a trio of players from English sides- Crowley, Manu and Chirivella joining from Arsenal, Brighton and Liverpool respectively. The new signings were left helpless though, as the Eagles succumbed to a 3-1 defeat against 4th placed AZ, who switched on the style after a goalless first 45. Weghorst opened the scoring for the visitors, with a Jahanbakhsh double coming either side of Johansson’s 89th minute penalty for Go Ahead.
Saturday’s action began in Friesland, with Heerenveen taking on struggling ADO Den Haag. Despite an improved performance, a quick-fire double by former Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad sentenced The Hague side to a 5th defeat in 6 league matches. Heerenveen remain 4th, ADO 14th– just 3 points above the relegation play-off positions.
Elsewhere, Heereveen’s rivals Groningen ran riot in Almelo, chalking up a shock 4-1 thumping of mid-table Heracles at their Polman Stadion. Payne, Sorloth and Mahi (2) were on target for the mightily impressive Green and Whites, van Mieghem’s last-minute strike for the hosts proving to be nothing more than a consolation.
PSV also enjoyed a comfortable victory over lowly Excelsior to keep up their pursuit of the top two. They remain 3rd, 3 points behind Ajax in 2nd, thanks to goals from Pröpper and van Ginkel, the latter scoring on his second debut for the Eindhoven side after joining back on-loan from Chelsea during the winter break.
In the final game of the day, Ajax’s next opponents FC Utrecht kept up their red-hot form with a come-from-behind victory over Sparta Rotterdam. Calero’s 26th minute opener for the hosts was cancelled out by Jansson’s equaliser, before Peterson came off the bench to snatch a last-minute winner for Utrecht and extend their unbeaten league run to 10.
On to Sunday, where Ajax’s 3-1 victory in Zwolle couldn’t help close the gap on leaders Feyenoord, as they also 2-0 away at Roda JC. The league’s top scorer, Nicolai Jørgensen, turned provider as he set up both goals in Kerkrade – from Kuyt and Elia – to help the Winter Champions secure their fourth straight league win. They remain 5 points ahead of de Godenzonen at the top of the pile.
In an enticing top-half encounter in Arnhem, home side Vitesse triumphed over FC Twente. A comfortable victory for the home side was spoilt only by a red card for Chelsea-loanee Lewis Baker, who had also scored the opening goal of the afternoon. Also on target for Vitesse were ex-Norwich frontman Ricky van Wolfswinkel (his 8th goal of the campaign) and Milot Rashica, whilst Klich’s penalty was scant consolation for the visitors from Enschede who drop below their victors into 8th place in the table.
Finally, NEC Nijmegen came away with an impressive 3 points away from home as they defeated Willem II 1-0 in Tilburg. The win moved NEC up two places to 10th wrapped up by Jay-Roy Grot’s late winner. For Willem II, it is sure to be a struggle to avoid the drop in the second half of the season- although they still sit 5 points clear of the drop-zone in 12th.