Pellè makes the difference again

Feyenoord moved into second place in the Eredivisie for at least 24 hours on Friday night. A slim 1-0 win against VVV-Venlo at De Kuip was enough to hoist Ronald Koeman’s side within a point of leaders Ajax with all three rivals still to play this weekend. It was certainly a hard-earned win, as the visitors gave as good as they got, especially in the first half, belying their lowly position in the table. Top scorer Graziano Pellè got the decisive strike midway through the second half.

Erwin Mulder was Feyenoord’s most valuable player in the opening 45 minutes, which said so much about how the first half went. The hosts claimed most of the possession in front of another full house at De Kuip, but the most incisive chances fell to the visitors.
The Feyenoord keeper made his most important save midway through the opening half. A fast-moving counter from VVV ended with the ball at the feet of Mulder’s former teammate Ricky van Haaren. The midfielder seemingly had the easiest of tap-ins but Mulder managed to tip his effort around the post. That was already the Feyenoord keeper’s second big save from Van Haaren, after parrying a long-range effort earlier in the game.
Feyenoord were again finding it difficult to get their game together after last week’s mediocre display at Heerenveen, although the midfield was virtually completely different. Without the suspended Jordy Clasie and the injured Lex Immers, Koeman started with Harmeet Singh for the first time this season, with Tonny Vilhena moving up into the hole behind Pellè.
Feyenoord certainly looked a little hesitant in the new formation, especially in possession. The midfielders found it difficult to support the attack, and Feyenoord too often chose the wrong pass. A goal could have settled them down, but save a few shots from distance, a header from Graziano Pellè, which landed on the top of the net, was as close as the hosts came before the break.
The game was into its final third before Feyenoord started to take the initiative and put the visitors under any real pressure. Most of the play went through Pellè, whose ability to hold onto the ball was so sorely missed in Heerenveen. As the game wore on, the hosts became increasingly frustrated as VVV constantly broke up their attacks and started to play the long ball up to the Italian.
Pellè did not disappoint, eventually getting the goal that De Kuip was so desperate to come. His 22nd goal of the season was a fine header from birthday boy Joris Mathijsen’s cross.
Feyenoord’s lead was not threatened in the final 20 minutes and the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief on the final whistle, safe in the knowledge that their team are still very much in the hunt at the top of the table with five games to play.
Feyenoord – VVV-Venlo 1-0
71’ 1-0 Pellè
Referee: Makkelie
Yellow: De Vrij (Feyenoord), Linssen (VVV-Venlo)
Feyenoord: Mulder; Janmaat, De Vrij, Mathijsen, Martins Indi; Vormer, Vilhena, Singh (60’ Goossens); Schaken, Pellè, Boëtius (46’ Cissé).
VVV-Venlo: Mäenpää; Joppen, Röseler, Seip, Leiwakabessy; Linssen, Van Haaren, Radosavljevic (85’ Bergkamp), Türk; Cullen (74’ Otsu), Maguire (74’ Wildschut). 
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