Ricardo Pepi’s impressive strike for Groningen was for naught as they lost yet again, while Taylor Booth and Utrecht had their dominant performance ruined by three disallowed goals.
Fortuna Sittard 3 – 1 FC Groningen
Ricardo Pepi saw another fine performance for Groningen once again go to waste, with the USMNT striker’s late goal being the lone highlight of an otherwise disappointing loss.
As per usual, Pepi was one of Groningen’s better players on the field, going the distance as the tip of the spear, taking a total of three shots, two on target, winning his only tackle, completing his only attempted dribble, winning four of nine duels, drawing one foul, and completing all 18 of his attempted passes.
Inigo Cordoba’s first-half brace sent Fortuna on their way, first streaking into the area to one-touch Tijjani Noslin’s cross from the right flank to the lower left corner, then cleaning up from six yards when Groningen keeper Michael Verrips blocked a shot directly into his path.
Pepi pulled one back for the visitors for his tenth goal of the season, receiving the ball from Florian Krüger just beyond the top edge of the box, before unleashing a laser-focused strike towards the lower right corner.
While Fortuna keeper Ivor Pandur did manage to just barely deflect it onto the upright, the ball’s momentum on the bounce still took it over the line to narrow the lead.
However, Paul Gladon ensured that the hosts would claim all of the points, heading Umaro Embalo’s free kick from the right edge over the line at the near post three minutes into injury time.
The loss now leaves Groningen seven points adrift of even the playoff spot with just seven games remaining. They next welcome Utrecht on Friday, needing a in in order to have any chance of cutting into the growing deficit.
NEC Nijmegen 2 – 4 PSV Eindhoven
Philippe Sandler played 78 minutes in NEC Nijmegen’s central defense on Saturday, having an unusually early 78th-minute exit from the game with his team down by three goals in their heavy home loss to PSV Eindhoven.
Luuk de Jong opened the scoring for the visitors in the seventh minute, slotting home block from Nijmegen keeper Jasper Cillessen from short range, then Olivier Boscagli headed in another unfortunate block from Cillessen 14 minutes later for the 2-0 lead.
Joey Veerman then got in on the action with six minutes left in the half, smacking in a short cut-back pass from de Jong in the middle of the area. Then de Jong made it four for the visitors five minutes into the second half, sliding in to poke Patrick van Aanholt’s cross over the line.
Nijmegen pulled a couple back on either side of Sandler’s 78th-minute departure. First, Oussama Tannane hit a perfect wonder-strike from just outside the box to the upper right corner in the 59th, then the former Moroccan international nailed a free kick to the opposite corner with just over four minutes in regulation.
Nijmegen are tenth place following the loss, and next visit 15th-place FC Emmen on Sunday.
FC Utrecht 0 – 0 FC Volendam
Taylor Booth and Utrecht were unable to turn their dominant performance against Volendam on Sunday into any positive result, and were forced to settle for a disappointing draw against visitors.
Utrecht dominated possession, holding the ball for 68% of the time, held an 18-8 margin on shots, and forced the opposing keeper into five saves, however were simply unable to put away any of their chances.
Booth started on the right side of the midfield, having 54 touches during his 64 minutes, while completing 89% of his 27 passing attempts, attempting one shot, setting up two further chances, taking seven corners for his team, although only hitting a pair of accurate crosses in 11 attempts.
Perhaps the moments of most excitement were the three instances where Utrecht put the ball in the back of the net, only to see the goals frustratingly called off.
In the 51st minute, Nick Viergever beat the defense but offside was called, then just past the hour, Bart Ramselaar’s strike was called back after VAR caught the ball momentarily rolling out of bounds in the buildup.
The last Utrecht opportunity saw a seeming winner from Tasos Douvikas negated for another offside with seven minutes left, ultimately dooming the game to a scoreless end.
Utrecht remain in seventh, and maintain four point lead ahead of RKC Waalwijk for the final spot in the standings for the four-team Europa Conference League play-off. They suit up again on Friday with a visit to FC Groningen.
FC Den Bosch 0 – 2 Willem II
Gedion Zelalem played just over 70 minutes in the FC Den Bosch midfield on Sunday, but the team were beaten at home by Willem II Tilburg.
Zelalem lined up alongside Ryan Lejten behind the front four, and had a decent performance, completing 22 out of 25 completed passes, taking a pair of shots, making two successful dribbles in three attempts, winning two out of three tackles, making five recoveries and a pair of interceptions, while winning half of his 12 duels.
Nevertheless, promotion-hunting Willem II easily came out on top, with Thijs Oosting hitting the 1-0 from 16 yards just before the half, then Erik Schouten striking the team’s second in the 63rd minute from close range.
Den Bosch are 18th in the 20-team division following the loss, but under no fear of relegation as no teams from the Eerste Divisie will make the drop this season due to administrative reasons. They next visit Breda on Friday.
PEC Zwolle 2 – 0 Jong Utrecht
Recent Zwolle arrival Anthony Fontana saw a a half of action for the Eerste Divisie leaders on Saturday, with a second-half surge against Jong Utrecht keeping them in pole position for direct promotion.
In his half of play, Fontana registered 28 touches, completed 90% of his 21 passes, took one shot, and won just one of six duels.
German forward Lennart Thy did all the damage, netting the 58th-minute opener after pulling down a deep pass from Dean Huiberts, then completing the brace in the 91st from close range, again with Huiberts on the set-up.
Zwolle hold a five-point lead over second-place Heracles with eight games left to play, and will try to solidify their lead with a visit to sixth-place FC Eindhoven on Friday.
Djordje Mihailovic entered AZ’s 1-1 home draw against Heerenveen on Saturday as a 74th-minute substitute, with the visitors still in the lead. Moments later, AZ secured the point thanks to an own-goal credited to ‘veen keeper Xavier Mous. Mihailovic was in the area at the time, but not directly involved in the equalizer. He also picked up a yellow card deep into stoppage time.
Kik Pierie was an unused substitute for Excelsior Rotterdam on Saturday for their scoreless draw at home against Twente.
Joshua Pynadath will likely play no role on Monday when Jong AZ visit Almere City in Eerste Divisie action.
Dante Sealy will hope to earn the start for Jong PSV on Monday night when they host Roda JC Kerkrade.