Ricardo Pepi
image: ANP / Imago

Dutch Recap: Pepi, Groningen Blown Out in Season Finale

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Ricardo Pepi was held goalless in his final game with Groningen, while Djordje Mihailovic and AZ Alkmaar were unable to claim their golden chance to jump into the Eredivisie top three.

AZ Alkmaar 1 – 2 PSV Eindhoven

Djordje Mihailovic was a second-half substitute for AZ on Sunday, as they were unable to push past Eredivisie runners-up PSV, and were forced to settle for the third-tier European competition next season as a result.

Mihailovic entered the game midway through the second half as AZ began their late push for an equalizer, but was fairly limited in impact with only 12 touches and one completion in five attempts. He did take one corner for the team, won three of five duels and successfully completed one of his two dribbles.

All the scoring action was saved for the final half-hour, with Xavi Simons putting PSV ahead in the 65th minute with a spectacular effort. In full stride, he ran onto a flicked through-ball from Luuk de Jong and stormed ahead towards goal just ahead of AZ defender Yukinari Sugawara. While the Japanese international pulled Simons down from behind, he was saved a likely red card by a sweeping, off-balance shot on the tumble, which rolled into the lower left corner.

Mihailovic entered the fray in the 68th minute as a part of ad double-switch, and AZ eventually equalized. Jesper Karlsson scored from the spot in the 84th minute, after Joey Veerman tripped up Riechedly Bazoer near the endline.

AZ then had a huge opening to push for the win after Anwar El-Ghazi was shown a second yellow for a trip at the midfield, forcing PSV to play for the final six minutes of added time a man down.

However, the tables still turned in PSV’s direction, with Simons netting his second, ending a darting run with an 11-yard shot from near the spot.

The loss directly hits AZ’s bank account, as their fourth-place finish prevents them from overtaking Ajax, who lost on the day but finished only two points ahead, places them into the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League instead of qualification for the more lucrative Europa League.

FC Groningen 0 – 5 Sparta Rotterdam

Ricardo Pepi and FC Groningen finally ended a disastrous season for the team in fitting fashion, getting blown out by European hopefuls Sparta Rotterdam in their final 90 minutes as a top-flight team.

Despite being the lone bright spot for the team through his 12 goals and three assists this season, Pepi was held scoreless for a third straight game, not even managing to get off a single shot for a team that was hamstrung by an early red card.

Groningen defender Nordin Musampa was the culprit on the 24th minute expulsion, pulling down Dirk Abels just outside the area as he was streaking towards goal, with Jonathan de Guzmán striking the resulting set piece to the upper left corner for the lead.

The hosts did keep the game respectable, until the flood gates opened just before the hour mark. Koki Saito made it two for the hosts in the 58th minute with a diagonal shot from the right edge of the six-yard box, then Abels chipped a forward pass over the defense for Arno Verschueren to strike home in the 75th.

Tobias Lauritsen added their fourth with 11 minutes by putting away an initially blocked shot from close range, then Vito van Crooij struck their fifth from the spot just before the end of regulation, after Mads Bech impeded Saito on his run into the area.

Groningen now prepare for the upcoming season in the Eerste Divisie, however Pepi will return to German club FC Augsburg ahead of a likely move to a top-flight club elsewhere in Europe.

FC Volendam 3 – 2 Excelsior

In a season finale with little consequence, Kik Pierie and Excelsior came up short against FC Volendam on Sunday, but still maintained their Eredivisie status.

Pierie played the full game for his on-loan club Excelsior in the central defense, completing 33 out of 40 passes, hitting 10 accurate long balls in 14 attempts, winning both of his tackles, making seven clearances, registering six blocks, winning four out of 11 duels, while committing only a single foul.

Volendam scored three within the first half-hour in what was looking to be a blowout in the making. Daryl van Mieghem rolled a diagonal shot across the penalty area to the lower right corner for their opener in the 10th minute, while Stijn van Gassel’s 23rd-minute blunder for an own-goal and Francesco Antonucci’s looping, 18-yard shot four minutes later brought the lead to 3-0.

Rather than wilt, Excelsior slowly clawed their way back, and were unfortunate to be left empty-handed at the end.

Lazaros Lamprou rattled the underside of the top netting with a tight-angled shot from the left side to cut the lead in the 56th minute, then Nikolas Agrafiotis took advantage of confusion amongst the Volendam defenders in the area to slam home their second with 12 minutes left.

Just before end of regulation, Excelsior were awarded a penalty when Xavier Mbuyamba took out Julian Baas with his poorly-timed tackle. However, Reda Kharchouch weakly hit his attempt to the left, gifting Filip Stankovic an easy save.

While Nikolas Agrafiotis did almost immediately put away the rebound, VAR revealed that he was in an offside position, with the goal being called off.

Excelsior finish the season 15th place, with a four-point cushion above the relegation playoff. Pierie is still an Ajax-owned player, and his generally strong run of games at the end of the season should be enough to land another loan or sale during the summer to a less at-risk Eredivisie team.

Fortuna Sittard 1 – 1 NEC Nijmegen

Philippe Sandler and NEC Nijmegen ended the season in unspectacular fashion, with a draw at Fortuna Sittard on Sunday bringing their winless streak to four games, and making their final landing spot 12th place.

Sandler put in a solid performance in NEC’s central defense, completing 91% of his 45 passes, accurately hitting half of his four long balls, winning his only attempted tackle, making three recoveries, winning two out of four duels, committing no fouls, and taking one shot.

The game was ruled by penalties, with Landry Dimata putting Nijmegen ahead from the spot in the 65th after VAR confirmed Rodrigo Guth’s foul on Magnus Mattsson was just inside the area.

NEC had a second penalty initially awarded in the 88th minute, only to have it overturned by VAR, then a replay found an infraction on the opposite end of the field moments later that opened the door for Fortuna’s equalizer.

NEC’s Bart van Rooij was seemingly tripped up by a Fortuna attacker while defending a ball into the box, but tumbled into Dimitrios Siovas, who had risen to head the ball toward goal.

While the referee initially opted to award a corner, a var review found van Rooij at fault for the incident, with Paul Gladon converting his low shot to the right side.

NEC end the season in 12th, and Sandler can look forward to a full season in the Eredivisie following the summer break.


Taylor Booth was an unused substitute for Utrecht on Sunday, as they closed their regular season with a 3-2 home win over Emmen. They now play Sparta Rotterdam over two legs in the semifinal of the Europa Conference League qualification playoff, with the first leg taking place on Thursday in Utrecht.


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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