Confidence boost for Feyenoord against AZ
Feyenoord earned three valuable points in the battle for Europa League qualification on Sunday. Head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side proved too strong for third-place AZ at De Kuip, running out 2-1 winners. A big confidence boost for the hosts ahead of the KNVB Cup final between the sides at the same stadium on Sunday 22 April.
Feyenoord showed how much they wanted the three points against AZ from the first whistle in front of another packed-out De Kuip crowd. Jean-Paul Boëtius, Nicolai Jørgensen and Kevin Diks all had chances within five minutes. Boëtius and Diks were just off target, while Jørgensen came within a whisker of connecting with a cross with visiting keeper Marco Bizot seemingly beaten.
AZ fired off their own warning shot ten minutes in, after surviving the home salvo. Feyenoord Academy graduate Oussama Idrissi tested Brad Jones, but the Australian passed the exam by stopping the long-range drive. The hosts immediately took over the initiative again. With Karim El Ahmadi and Jan-Arie van der Heijden in the starting line-up Feyenoord racked up a host of chances.
Jørgensen went closest on 21 minutes. The Dane got his header on target from a Ridgeciano Haps cross, but Bizot somehow managed to deny him a goal. The keeper finger-tipped the ball onto the post and then scrambled it out from under the feet of Jens Toornstra.
AZ were living dangerously, but Feyenoord almost gifted them an opportunity to take the lead against the run of play. Referee Dennis Higler could easily have been given the visitors a penalty after Van der Heijden put hand to ball in his own penalty area.
The home crowd finally had something to cheer on 33 minutes. When Boëtius was gifted possession by AZ defender Pantelis Hatzidiakos let rip without hesitation. The shot whizzed into the bottom left-hand corner, leaving Bizot with no chance. As Feyenoord looked to double their lead, Bizot was rooted to the turf just before the break when Steven Berghuis smashed a free kick off the post.
AZ brought on former Feyenoorder Ron Vlaar after the break and the visitors had more joy keeping the home side quiet. The Alkmaar outfit even went close to levelling after an hour. Striker Wout Weghorst’s header hung in the air for what seemed to be an eternity before dropping just wide of the post.
At the other end Jørgensen was more accurate on 74 minutes. The Feyenoord target man was the last station in a sweeping attacking move, via Berghuis and a Tonny Vilhena dummy. The Dane remained as calm as you like, chipping it into the left corner to give Feyenood a two-goal lead. It was Jørgensen’s first goal since the Eredivisie’s post-winter break resumption.
Jones looked likely to keep a clean sheet after denying Thomas Ouwejan and Joris van Overeem late on, but the visitors grabbed a goal in injury time. Weghorst did well to dig out the ball to net with a fine strike from close in. The win leaves Feyenoord still 11 points behind AZ with seven league games to play. And of course that cup final between the clubs in six weeks’ time.