Feyenoord’s Europa League hopes were shattered in the Czech Republic on Thursday night. Coach Ronald Koeman’s side did not manage to trouble Sparta Prague in their own Generali Arena a week after the sides drew 2-2 at De Kuip. Two goals in the final half-hour secured victory for the Gambrinus Liga leaders, eliminating Feyenoord in the play-off round of the competition. Stefan de Vrij was judged to have recovered from an ankle injury and started the game, but was forced off not long after the quarter-hour mark with a new injury.
Various Feyenoorders has stressed how important the game was for the club the day before the game. Koeman talked about the experience his young charges would be able to acquire in the group stage of the Europa League, while Jordy Clasie said that the team wanted a good result to reward itself for the second-place finish in last season’s Eredivisie.
It seemed as those all of those things rested heavily on the shoulders of the players in the early stages of the game. Feyenoord looked a little shaky, giving the ball away cheaply. It gave Sparta Prague the chance to put their opponents under pressure from the get-go.
The visitors only started to get any kind of foothold in the game halfway through the first half. And when Feyenoord got their passing into gear they looked a threat.
The best chance came on 35 minutes. Lex Immers and Ruud Vormer combined well to find a way through the Sparta defence. Vormer played the ball out to Sekou Cissé, who let rip with a low drive that keeper Tomas Vaclík saved.
It was only of the few occasions in the opening half when Feyenoord managed to relieve the otherwise relentless home pressure. Koeman’s defence was well drilled, though, and the hosts scarcely created a good opportunity even after De Vrij’s exit. The only time Erwin Mulder was tested before the break was a header by defender Andrej Svejdik from a corner.
Like a week earlier at De Kuip Feyenoord only really started to put their best foot forward at the start of the second half. Daryl Janmaat showed the most intent, steaming up through the middle of the park before shooting wide from distance.
But just as the game seemed to be tipping Feyenoord’s way, Sparta Prague won themselves a penalty up the other end on the counter. The ball hit Miquel Nelom’s hand in the box and the Croatian referee felt he had no option but to award the spot kick. Vaclav Kadlec hit his penalty hard and true down the middle to give the hosts the lead.
The game was up for Feyenoord within ten minutes of the opener. This time the goal came from a corner. Defender Jiri Jarošík was left unmarked between the posts and he efficiently headed in to make it 2-0.
It left Feyenoord looking for two goals in the last twenty minutes to take the game into extra time. Koeman brought on an extra striker in the guise of Guyon Fernandez, but it was the home side that continued to press as the clock ticked down. When they did, Janmaat came closest to reducing the deficit with a shot that caressed the post.
The final whistle confirmed Feyenoord’s elimination from the competition, but the hundreds of Feyenoord fans who had travelled to Prague for the game showed their appreciation for the hard work their team had put in. Koeman and his players repaid the compliment by acknowledging the great support they had been given despite their disappointment.
Sparta Prague – Feyenoord 2-0
61’ 1-0 Kadlec (pen)
70’ 2-0 Jarosik
Referee: Ivan Bebek (Cro)
Yellow: Immers, Janmaat, Mulder (Feyenoord), Matìjovský (Sparta Praag)
Sparta Prague: Vaclík; Vidlièka, Švejdík, Jarošík, Pamic; Kaderabek (88’ Skalak), Hušbauer, Matìjovský (77' Holek), Prikryl (68’ Krevci); Kadlec, Kweuke.
Feyenoord: Mulder; Janmaat, De Vrij (18’ Nelom), Mathijsen, Martins Indi; Vormer, Clasie, Leerdam (73’ Fernandez), Immers; Schaken, Cissé (80’ Achahbar).