‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Feyenoord remain pointless three games into the new Eredivisie season after losing to Ajax on Sunday. Ronald Koeman’s side did take an early lead through Graziano Pellè at the Amsterdam Arena against the champions, but two goals from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson before the break were enough to secure the win for the hosts. The game was a special one for Samuel Armenteros, who came on for to make his Feyenoord debut in the last 20 minutes, and for Sven van Beek, who made his league debut in the starting eleven.
Ronald Koeman decided to start with two strikers in the capital, which spoke volumes about the way the coach wanted his side to play. Feyenoord got men behind the ball whenever the hosts won possession, with Pellè playing as a target man when Feyenoord broke forward. The Italian had the possibility to bring in the speedy Ruben Schaken or Lex Immers when he won the ball.
Those tactics looked to be working well in the opening stages of the encounter. Feyenoord dominated early on with Ajax unable to get a toehold in the game. The early pressure was richly rewarded on six minutes when the visitors grabbed the lead. Joris Mathijsen got on to the end of a Ruud Vormer cross to play the ball across the face of goal, where Pellè managed to divert it past the keeper from close range.
It was the start that Feyenoord were so desperate for, but Koeman’s men were unable to keep the pressure on their opponents after the goal. The visitors were well organised throughout the first half, but were unable to keep hold of the ball for any length of time.
Feyenoord were pushed further and further back towards their own goal, and when the equaliser came it had something of the inevitable about it. The hosts did have a helping hand from referee Björn Kuipers, who gave a penalty for Ruud Vormer’s challenge on Victor Fischer despite there being no discernable contact. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson stepped up to net from the spot.
It was just the kick-start Ajax needed to get back in the game and the consequence was a rocky last fifteen minutes for Feyenoord. The visitors were unable to break out of the hosts’ iron grip, ultimately succumbing to the pressure with eight minutes left to play.
The direct cause was a rare mistake at the back. Sigthorsson got away from his marker to send in a powerful header that Mulder could only push onto the underside of the bar and over the line.
Feyenoord’s second half performance was less frenetic and watching intently from the sidelines Ronald Koeman must have felt his side had a chance to get back on level terms. Ajax were making plenty of mistakes and Feyenoord started to make regular excursions over the halfway line. The only problem was a lack of creativity, which meant that Ajax not really put under any serious pressure. The sole chance fell to Pellè, who headed a Schaken cross into the side netting.
Feyenoord pushed an extra man forward in the last 20 minutes, with debutant Armenteros on the left, but the change had little impact on the game.
Ajax – Feyenoord 2-1
6’ 0-1 Pellè
31’ 1-1 Sigthorsson (penalty)
37’ 2-1 Sigthorsson
Yellow: Eriksen (Ajax), Vormer, Mulder, Immers, Vilhena (Feyenoord)
Ajax: Vermeer, Ligeon (88’ Van der Hoorn), Alderweireld, Moisander, Blind; Poulsen, Eriksen, Schöne (78’ Serero); Krkic (68’ Hoesen), Sigthorsson, Fischer.
Feyenoord: Mulder; Van Beek, Mathijsen (86’ Te Vrede), Martins Indi, Nelom; Vilhena, Clasie, Vormer, Immers (69’ Armenteros); Schaken (76’ Verhoek), Pellè.