‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Feyenoord chalked up their one thousandth Eredivisie victory in Alkmaar Wednesday with a single-goal win over AZ to move back up to third in the league. The only goal of the game was delivered by Jonathan de Guzman halfway through the first half. AZ put the Rotterdammers under pressure after the break, but some heroic defending kept Lious van Gaal’s team out. Less happily, Roy Makaay picked up an ankle injury and was forced to sit out the second half, while Tim de Cler earned a yellow card late on, which means that he will have to watch Saturday’s match against VVV from the sidelines.
The self-confidence that has eluded Feyenoord in recent weeks seemed to be back in the team from the kick-off. It was perhaps best expressed by Jonathan de Guzman, who appeared to draw strength from his selection in the preliminary Dutch squad for the first time.
It was no surprise then that De Guzman was the one to edge his side in front. A good triangle with Tim de Cler and Luigi Bruins in the middle of the park ended with De Guzman racing onto a deep pass on the left to stroke the ball past keeper Romero.
Feyenoord had a great opportunity to double that lead without two minutes when De Guzman was brought down in a central position twenty metres from the goal. Roy Makaay drilled in a low shot that went under the wall, but Romera was well positioned to save.
That was to be Makaay’s last attacking contribution, as the striker was replaced at the break with a suspected torn ankle ligament.
AZ were unable to really threaten the visitors in the first half. The half-time whistle was moments away by the time the hosts went close. Moussa Dembelé had the initial shot but Sebastien Pocognoli’s rebound effort was the one that almost broke the deadlock. Henk Timmer had to take action five minutes from the break too, plucking a fine free kick from Pocognoli from under the bar.
After the turnaround the hosts immediately looked stronger. AZ came out of the dressing room with fire in their bellies and the hard wind only fanned the flames. A gust almost carried an Agustien free kick all the way into Timmer’s goal, while Dembelé was dangerous with a header from ten metres or so. Before the second half was fully fifteen minutes old Feyenoord had had to defend desperately in their own box on two separate occasions to prevent the home side from nicking an equaliser.
Feyenoord were coming under increasing pressure, which minimised their attacking ambitions to the odd counter. One of them was set up by Danny Buijs – just on for Bruins – a little over ten minutes from the end. He played a deep ball into Denny Landzaat that keeper Romero misjudged, but Landzaat slipped and the danger passed.
AZ continued to press in the final stages, but a strong defensive display kept the home side at bay. There were five minutes to go when Graziano Pellè went closest, almost grazing the outside of the post with a long-distance drive. By the time Kew Jaliens was presented with his second yellow in injury time the hosts were under no illusions that the game was up.
AZ – Feyenoord 0-1
20’ 0-1 De Guzman
Bookings: Mendes da Silva, De Zeeuw, De Cler
Sending off: Jaliens (2 yellows)
AZ: Romero; Jaliens, Mendes da Silva, Moreno, Opdam; Agustien, De Zeeuw, Cziommer (55’ El Hamdaoui), Pocognoli (68’ Ari); Dembélé, Pellè
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Landzaat, Van Bronckhorst, Sahin (90’ Fer); De Guzman, Makaay (46’ Mols), Bruins (78’ Buijs)