A nail-biting win by Taylor Booth and Utrecht kept them in the driver’s seat for earning chance to qualify for European play, while Gedion Zelalem made his debut for Den Bosch, with a solid performance in an otherwise heavy loss.
FC Utrecht 1 – 0 SC Heerenveen
Taylor Booth put in yet another solid performance for Utrecht, helping them to eke out a win over fellow European hopefuls Heerenveen in a crucial six-pointer.
The American lined up in his usual spot on the right side of the attack from the opening whistle. In 85 minutes of play, he managed a pair of shots, one of which forced a save, completed 73% of his 33 passing attempts, set up two chances, beat opposing players on two of four attempted dribbles, was on-target with four of his nine crosses, and drew one foul.
The hosts came close just before the half when Booth’s cross to Anastasios Douvikas was shot just wide right of the target, however they were eventually able to take the advantage thanks to a defensive miscue.
In the 68th minute, Othmane Boussaid tried to weave his way into the left side of the area between a pair of Heerenveen defenders. Just as he crossed over the line, he tripped over Antoine Colassin clumsily outstretched leg.
Douvikas coolly nailed the resulting spot kick, sending his attempt straight down the middle to humiliate the Utrecht keeper.
Booth came close to doubling the lead two minutes later only to see his attempt saved by Xavier Mous, then put the keeper back to work in the 79th minute when his cross to Sander van de Streek forced a save.
Utrecht held on to their advantage through the final whistle, taking the critical three points. The result opens up a six-point gap ahead of eighth-place Heerenveen, with a visit to AZ Alkmaar in Cup action on Tuesday.
FC Groningen 1 – 1 FC Twente
Ricardo Pepi went the distance for Groningen, as the team valiantly fought back against visiting Twente on Sunday evening to earn a point.
Groningen needed a top performance against Europe-hunting Twente in order to try to stop their downward momentum, and while they were able to finally stop their losing streak, the draw did little to lift themselves out of the gutter.
Pepi kept his spot atop the Groningen attack, playing the full 90 minutes, managing one shot and creating three additional chances, while registering a pair of clearances, two interceptions, winning seven of 19 duels, and beating opponents on one of his three attempted dribbles.
He was the trigger for Groningen’s first crack in the third minute, setting up Tomás Suslov for a shot from outside the area which forced Twente keeper Lars Unnerstall into the first of his six saves.
Twente was clinical in the early going, scoring on their first real chance in the fifth minute when Václav Cerny set up Sem Steijn in the center of the area for a shot to the lower left corner for the lead.
The American set up a pair of further chances Daleho Irandust in the 23rd and 27th minutes, then saw his header fly left of the mark shortly before the break.
The hosts were able to secure the point, with new arrival Oliver Antman doing the honors in his debut appearance with the club. Two minutes after entering the game as a 65th-minute substitute, the Finnish international ran onto a through-ball from Johan Hove, and buried his shot in the upper left corner to put the game on even terms.
While the point maintains their slight edge over last-place Cambuur, Groningen are still in trouble, as they end the weekend four points adrift of safety. They are back in action on Saturday with a tough visit to PSV Eindhoven.
Almere City FC 1 – 2 Jong PSV
Dante Sealy earned a rare start for Jong PSV, as they fought for a road win over promotion-hunting Almere City on Friday.
Sealy played 83 minutes on the right side of the attack, managing one shot, winning two of his three dribble attempts, six of ten duels, and drawing one foul.
Jason van Duiven did the damage for the visitors, first netting the opener in the 23rd minute with a shot from outside the area to the upper left corner, then sealing the deal in the 67th, after a collision between the Almere keeper and one of his defenders left the 17 year-old attacker an opening.
Sealy’s lone chance came ten minutes into the second half, when he headed a cross from Mohamed Nassoh well over the crossbar.
While Almere did pull one back with seven minutes left in regulation, Lance Duijvestijn striking from the spot following a handball by Nassoh, the visitors held on for the victory.
Jong PSV finish the round in 12th place, and will next host ADO Den Haag on Monday, February 13.
TOP Oss 3 – 0 FC Den Bosch
New arrival Gedion Zelalem made his debut for FC Den Bosch in Friday-night Eerste Divisie action, putting in a promising performance as a second-half substitute in an otherwise disappointing road loss at TOP Oss.
The former Arsenal youth player played the final 22 minutes plus added time, completing all of his 19 passing attempts while creating one late chance as the team tried to overturn the heavy deficit.
In a battle of two teams near the bottom of the Eerste Divisie, second-bottom TOP struck first, with Jearl Magaritha finishing a counter by striking from near the spot to the lower right corner for the 1-0 lead.
The visitors kept the game close for the remainder of the first half and much of the second, before the wheels fell off in the final quarter-hour.
Days after joining the team at the end of the winter transfer window, Zelalem came onto the field in place of left back Jorn van Hedel in the 68th minute, and his overall tidy performance might give him a leg-up on gaining a starting role.
Nevertheless, Rick van den Herik gave TOP the two-goal lead in the 76th minute with a left-footed shot to the lower left corner.
Zelalem did set up Danny Verbeek for an 84th minute chance from outside the area, however his shot flew just to the left of the upright. This allowed the hosts to punctuate the perfect win with a final goal in injury time, with Kay Tejan picking out Kyvon Leidsman for a low shot to the left of goal.
The result leaves Zelalem and his teammates in 17th place, with a visit from Jong Ajax next up on Friday.
Djordje Mihailovic picked up a late injury, and was forced to miss AZ Alkmaar’s surprising 1-1 road draw at relegation-threatened FC Volendam on Saturday. He will be in a race against time to be ready for the team’s KNVB Cup match against visiting Utrecht on Tuesday.
Kik Pierie is still recovering from an injury and was not in uniform for Excelsior Rotterdam’s scoreless home draw against RKC Waalwijk.
Richard Ledezma didn’t make it off of the PSV Eindhoven bench on Sunday for their 2-2 draw at Feyenoord Rotterdam.
Philippe Sandler is sick and missed NEC Nijmegen’s 1-0 road loss at Go Ahead Eagles on Sunday.
Joshua Pynadath is still nowhere to be found, and was not in uniform for Jong AZ’s 4-3 home win over VVV-Venlo.