Ricardo Pepi’s ninth goal of the season helped Groningen spot a narrow path to survival while Taylor Booth’s injury in Utrecht’s victory will leave American fans nervously waiting for any update to his status.
FC Groningen 3 – 0 Excelsior Rotterdam
Ricardo Pepi continued the fine scoring form that he has displayed all season, however this time it was finally for the winning side, as Groningen broke their long winless streak to crawl within reach of safety.
Pepi’s ninth goal of the season came amidst a generally strong performance, where he managed five shots, three of which forced saves, set up a further two chances, was successful on four of his five attempted dribbles, and was accurate on his lone crossing attempt.
On-loan Excelsior defender Kik Pierie is still recovering from injury and didn’t suit up for the guests.
Groningen opened the scoring just past the 12-minute mark after Daleho Irandust slipped a short forward pass between a pair of defenders, giving Johan Hove just enough space to target the lower left corner of Excelsior’s goal for the early lead.
The hosts stayed within reach until five minutes into the second half. Irandust launched long pass from the backfield in the direction of Pepi and Elvis Manu, who were streaking in tandem up the right flank. The American was first to the ball, took a pair of touches to cut behind his marking defender, and buried his low shot to the left of goal.
Liam van Gelderen then put the game fully out of reach in the 66th minute, colliding with an attempted clearance, then striking the ball on the turn, with his shot just clearing the underside of the crossbar for the final 3-0 scoreline.
Remarkably, this was only the second time since joining the club that the American has scored in a winning effort for the team, with the only other instance being their defeat of PSV back in October.
Even with the three points, Groningen are still far from being out of the woods, as they are one point behind Emmen for the playoff, and three back from 15th-place Excelsior. Their next task will be a tough one, as they visit league leaders Feyenoord on Saturday.
Sparta Rotterdam 0 – 3 FC Utrecht
Taylor Booth took up his usual starting spot in Utrecht’s attack, however a strong win by the team at Sparta Rotterdam was overshadowed by a second-half injury to the American.
Before leaving the game in the 69th minute, Booth completed 77% of his 26 passes amidst 40 ball contacts, forced one save from his two shots, created three chances for teammates, won three of five duels and drew a pair of fouls.
All of the action was saved for the second half, although apart from Booth’s injury midway through the period, nearly all favored the visitors.
Sparta defender Adil Auassar was shown a straight red in the 49th minute for his participation in a scuffle between the two teams, giving a clear opening to the visitors.
While Booth was one of Utrecht’s more dangerous attackers as they tried to capitalize on their man-advantage, his evening was cut short after he went down in the 66th minute, and after a couple minutes of treatment had to leave the field with assistance.
Utrecht finally took the lead in the 74th minute with a shot across the area to the lower left corner, and then Othman Boussaid and Anthony Descotte brought the final score to 3-0 with a pair of rapid-fire goals in the 88th and 89th minutes, respectively.
Utrecht finish the weekend in seventh place, occupying the final European competition play-off spot with a five-point cushion over RKC Waalwijk. They host Spakenburg in the Dutch Cup on Tuesday, then welcome Fortuna Sittard in Eredivisie play on Friday.
The team has not yet commented on the nature of Booth’s injury, which comes at a busy tieme for Utrecht, and a critical time for the player with the late-March international window approaching.
NEC Nijmegen 3 – 0 FC Volendam
Philippe Sandler had a strong game in NEC Nijmegen’s comprehensive win over FC Volendam on Saturday, assisting on what ended up being the winning goal as they further secured their midtable status.
Before leaving the game in the 71st minute, the Amsterdam-born defender had one shot in addition to his second assist of the season, completed 89% of his 66 passes, accurately hit four out of five long balls, won all seven of his duels, made three clearances and recovered the ball 12 times.
After a scoreless first half, NEC opened the scoring in the 58th minute when Sandler rose high to head a corner towards goal, which Ivan Marquez poked over the line from short-range.
Landry Dimata doubled the lead six minutes past the hour on the counter, beating the Volendam keeper with an off-balance shot to the left after he was sent through on goal by Oussama Tannane.
Pedro Marques then added the exclamation point, controlling a long ball from Sandler’s replacement Joris Kramer, and beating the keeper at the near post for the 3-0.
Nijmegen are ninth place in the Eredivisie standings following the win, seven points back from the final European play-off, and 12 ahead of the relegation places. They next visit Ajax on Sunday.
FC Den Bosch 0 – 0 ADO Den Haag
Gedion Zelalem put in a man-of-the-match performance on Sunday for Den Bosch, helping the team to hold promotion-hunting ADO Den Haag to a scoreless draw in Eerste Divisie action.
The former Arsenal academy player lined up alongside Faris Hammouti in a more holding role, and helped to boss the midfield as they held the edge of possession and severely limited any danger from the opposition.
He completed 81% of his 47 passes, beat opponents on both of his attempted dribbles, fired three accurate long balls in three tries, won six out of ten duels, made four interceptions, recovered the ball 13 times, and won 13 out of 16 duels.
The two teams combined for just 15 shots, although there were overall few moments of real danger. Den Bosch keeper Wouter van der Steen was forced to make three saves in the game, while his counterpart Sonny Stevens was hardly threatened by the opposing attack.
Den Haag, who are coached by Dutch legend Dick Advocaat, will be more disappointed with taking only one point as they are fighting to climb into the promotion playoff spots. Den Bosch finish the weekend in 17th, and visit division leaders Zwolle on Friday night.
Djordje Mihailovic was an unused substitute for AZ Alkmaar on Saturday in their 2-1 home win over Cambuur Leeuwarden.
Richard Ledezma was an unused substitute for PSV Eindhoven on Sunday in their 3-1 home win over FC Twente.
Dante Sealy will hope to see action on Monday night when Jong PSV host Jong AZ in Eerste Divisie action. Joshua Pynadath is unlikely to feature for the visitors.