Feyenoord came from behind to grab a 2-2 draw at home to Sparta Prague at De Kuip on Thursday night. Coach Ronald Koeman’s side was two goals down within a half-hour, but two goals in the final thirty minutes levelled the tie, setting up an exciting second-leg at the Generali Arena in the Czech capital next week. Miquel Nelom scored Feyenoord’s first on the hour, before Anass Achahbar came off the bench to bring the home side level in injury time. Feyenoord now probably need to win in Prague to progress to the group stage of the Europa League.
When asked by a Czech journalist the day before the game who he felt was Sparta Prague’s best player, Ronald Koeman was in no doubt it was “the number 11”. That number belongs to Léonard Kweuke, the striker who is scoring for fun in the Gambrinus Liga this season.
Koeman’s assessment was shown to be spot on. The Czechs game plan was focused on getting the ball to the Cameroonian big man as fast as possible. It was a plan that paid off for the visitors halfway through the first half.
The Czechs won possession in the middle of the pitch and the ball was quickly fed through to Kweuke. His shot hit Erwin Mulder and rebounded to midfielder Kadlec, who tapped home.
The goal was against the run of play. Save an untidy opening period Feyenoord had been the better team, but that counted for nothing when the Czechs doubled their lead within three minutes.
Sparta struck with frightening efficiency from a long throw. The ball eventually fell to the feet of Kadlec. The midfielder had the time and space to pick his spot, leaving Mulder helpless again.
Save a shot from Josef Hušbauer that rattled the bar that was all the chances the Bohemians were to get in the first half. At the other end, Feyenoord found it tough to create much in the way of chances. Ronald Koeman saw his team have more of the ball, but the fluent passing needed to open up the Sparta defence was lacking.
As a result, the only threats came from a blocked shot on the turn from Guyon Fernandez and a long-range drive from Lex Immers, which keeper Tomas Vaclík just about managed to keep out.
After the break Feyenoord played with less fear, gradually pushing the visitors further back towards their own goal, although Sparta’s defensive wall continued to hold up to the barrage.
But just as the crowd started to express anxiety the home side finally conjured a goal out of nothing. The game was exactly an hour old when defender Nelom decided to try his luck from distance. His shot snuck in at the back post to reduce the deficit to one.
The strike gave the Rotterdammers renewed hope of getting something out of the tie after all and as the clock ticked down the pressure started to build.
It looked as though the Czechs would manage to hold onto their lead but substitute Achahbar pulled the equaliser out of the hat in injury time. It was the high point of his fledging career in more ways than one.
Immers fed Achahbar in front of goal and the 18-year-old outfitted the keeper with a delicate touch from behind his standing leg to send the home crowd into raptures. It was nothing more than Feyenoord deserved.
Feyenoord – Sparta Prague 2-2
23’ 0-1 Kadlec
26’ 0-2 Kadlec
60’ 1-2 Nelom
90’ 2-2 Achahbar
Yellow: Kweuke, Hušbauer, Matìjovský, Vaclík (Sparta Prague)
Feyenoord: Mulder; Janmaat, Martins Indi, Mathijsen, Nelom; Leerdam (62’ Vormer), Immers, Clasie; Schaken, Fernandez (81’ Achahbar), Cissé (62’ Elabdellaoui).
Sparta Prague: Vaclík; Vidlièka, Jarošík, Švejdík, Pamiæ; Matìjovský (83’ Holek), Hušbauer, Kadeøábek (69’ Prikryl); Skalák, Kadlec (86’ Pavelka), Kweuke.