Title wait prolonged in Kralingen
Feyenoord suffered a torrid afternoon at Excelsior on Sunday, going down to disappointing 3-0 loss. A win on the artificial surface of the Van Donge & De Roo Stadium in Rotterdam’s Kralingen district would have secured the club’s fifteenth league title and the first in eighteen years, but it was not to be. It means that Feyenoord still need a win at home to Heracles next week to be sure of finishing the season as champions.
The visitors started nervously, which was not surprising given the pressure of expectation weighing on their shoulders. In the weeks leading up to the match Rotterdam and far beyond had been hit by an outbreak of title fever. One consequence has been huge crowds at Feyenoord’s open training sessions in the past week.
Ever since an opening day 5-0 win at FC Groningen Feyenoord have seemed to be relentlessly advancing towards the title. The 2-0 win at Vitesse on match day 32 only confirmed that, as Feyenoord eased four points clear with two rounds to play.
Although formally an away fixture for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men, Feyenoord fans were in the majority at Excelsior’s compact Van Donge & De Roo Stadium. A further 40,000 were packed into De Kuip in front of four huge big screens. From the first whistle across the city, the fans at De Kuip cheered on their team as though the 22 players were on the pitch in front of them.
Whereas the only side capable of denying Feyenoord the title, Ajax, raced into a two-goal lead in Amsterdam, the league leaders found the going tough against an outfit that still needed a point to confirm their Eredivisie status for another season. Only in the final minutes of the half did Feyenoord threaten the home goal. Terence Kongolo headed wide and Tonny Vilhena saw a free kick saved in a final assault before the break. Otherwise Excelsior looked comfortable, albeit seemingly incapable of creating anything dangerous themselves.
The picture changed radically coming up to the hour mark, as Excelsior scored twice in three minutes. The first came from Nigel Hasselbaink, who netted from inside the box after being put in by Fredy Ribeiro. Number two came courtesy of Stanley Elbers, who made no mistake when the ball fell fortuitously at his feet. Within five minutes the hosts had what looked like an unassailable lead. Ryan Koolwijk scored from a free kick.
By then it was clear that Feyenoord would have to put their end-of-season party on hold. Happily, they still have another chance to get their hands on the title shield against Heracles Almelo next week at De Kuip, where Feyenoord have picked up the full thirty points in their last ten matches. But they will have to do it without Tonny Vilhena, whose yellow card in Kralingen means he misses the season finale through suspension.