Feyenoord go down fighting in Manchester
With one match to go, Feyenoord’s European fate was sealed in England on Tuesday evening. Head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side looked to be on course for a credible draw against Manchester City, but a late goal from Raheem Sterling won it for the hosts. Combined with Napoli’s 3-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk, the loss ended Feyenoord’s slim hopes of third place in Champions League Group F.
Feyenoord showed plenty of courage in their attempt to overturn the odds and keep their European adventure alive. Manchester City had strolled to a 4-0 win at De Kuip in mid-September, with three goals before the break, but the Rotterdam side gave a much better account of themselves at the Etihad Stadium.
Part of that was down to the fact that the Premier League outfit had already secured a place in the knockout stages and did not have to go full throttle. But Feyenoord’s performance was another big factor, as they showed that they had drawn lessons from their first four Champions League matches. The visitors, for whom Kevin Diks, Renato Tapia, Sofyan Amrabat and Jean-Paul Boëtius returned to the starting line-up, played with application and concentration in defence, and managed to give the hosts more to think about as the half wore on
The biggest chance for Feyenoord in the opening 45 minutes came from Sam Larsson, whose shot to the far corner missed the target by half a metre or so. That came ten minutes before the break. By then, Jean-Paul Boëtius had almost embarrassed a vacillating Ederson in the City goal. Tonny Vilhena also tested the Brazilian from close range.
At the other end, Brad Jones was given more to do as half time neared. The Feyenoord captain did not have to work too hard to keep out attempts from Sterling and Bernardo Silva, though, and Sergio Aguëro sent a header wide.
The longer the score remained goalless, the more confident Feyenoord grew, noisily backed by 2700 travelling fans. But the news coming in from the south of Italy that Napoli had taken the lead against Shakhtar Donetsk ratcheted up the pressure on Feyenoord, who suddenly needed to conjure up a goal of their own to stay alive in Europe going into the last round of group matches.
The visitors certainly had belief that they could pull it off, as the increasing number of attacks showed. Feyenoord’s best chance of the match duly arrived 20 minutes from time. Tonny Vilhena and Larsson linked up well to set up Steven Berghuis, but Ederson tipped over his effort. It was to be the last big chance for Feyenoord, who would certainly have deserved a point. But it was snatched away from them on 89 minutes when Sterling netted.
The travelling support did not let it ruin their night though, and they gave their team a standing ovation at the final whistle to show their appreciation for a good performance against the runaway English league leaders.