For much of the match it looked like Feyenoord might not even score one. Central defenders Stefan de Vrij and Joris Mathijsen were the best players on the pitch in the opening 45, which reflected the state of affairs fairly accurately. The defensive pairing pretty much had the visitor’s main attacking threat Género Zeefuik in their pocket, limiting Groningen’s forward thrust drastically. As a result, all the northerners could muster offensively in the first half was a corner that was easily plucked out of the air by Erwin Mulder.
That said, the hosts also failed to create anything of real merit. That was not only due to the compact defensive block Groningen formed every time Feyenoord had the ball, but also the hosts own sloppiness. All told, visiting keeper Luciano had little to do, apart from a couple of harmless long-distance efforts from Jean-Paul Boëtius
Feyenoord suffered from the same lack of spark in the early stage of the second half, but when they did apply themselves the reward came almost immediately.
The hosts gradually ratcheted up the pressure. Tonny Vilhena tried his luck from a way out only to see his effort flash wide, and Boëtius had another long-range pop blocked. But the breakthrough eventually came from a Jordy Clasie corner. Pellè met his perfectly weighted ball in, netting with his head from close range. A defender cleared from behind the line, but referee Kuiper pointed to the centre circle to confirm that the goal stood.
It came as a relief to the home ranks, anxious for their side to capitalise fully on dropped points by two rivals at the top of the table, Vitesse and Ajax. It didn’t seem to have a similar effect on the players however, as Feyenoord continued to show a lack of composure despite the lead.
As legs started to tire, more space was created and Groningen began to look more of a threat going forward.
The first time the Feyenoord defence was put under serious pressure resulted in an equaliser. Mulder had been a virtual spectator for most of the game but with 15 minutes left he was picking the ball out of his net. Mathijsen got his head to a ball in to the box, but it fell to Virgil van Dijk, who smashed in the leveller.
It was a hard lesson for Feyenoord and things could have got worse very quickly. Had Michael de Leeuw connected with a cross from the right a few moments later, the visitors would have been ahead. He didn’t, but it was difficult to see how he’d managed to miss the ball completely.
Be that as it may, it looked as though Feyenoord would have to make do with a single point, until Pellè intervened. The Italian once again showed his worth, latching on to a Lex Immers through-ball to beat keeper Luciano, netting his fourteen of the campaign. It was a fitting end to the first half of the season, lifting Feyenoord into joint third place in the league.
Feyenoord – FC Groningen 2-1
58’ 1-0 Pellè
77’ 1-1 Van Dijk
88’ 2-1 Pellè
Yellow: Bacuna (FC Groningen)
Feyenoord: Mulder; Janmaat, De Vrij, Mathijsen, Martins Indi; Clasie, Immers, Vilhena (82’ Vormer); Schaken (64’ Verhoek), Pellè, Boëtius (89’ Nelom).
FC Groningen: Luciano; Kappelhof, Van Dijk, Kwakman, Burnet; Sparv, De Leeuw (81’ Zivkovic), Kieftenbeld (57’ Ajilore); Schet, Zeefuik (60’ Bacuna), Kirm.