Feyenoord will have to beat FC Groningen at De Kuip Sunday to have any hope of progressing to the Uefa Cup playoff final after loosing 1-2 to their northern neighbours in Thursday's first leg. Caretaker coach Leo Beenhakker's side grabbed the lead through Romeo Castelen at Euroborg stadium, only to have Jonathan de Guzman sent off on twenty minutes. It was an uphill battle after that. Erik Nevland secured parity for the home side on the stroke of half time, before Gibril Sankoh netted the winner midway through the second half in a game that saw Stein Huysegems return to the starting eleven in favour of Angelos Charisteas.

Beenhakker claimed he was not a miracle worker but in the opening stages it appeared that the caretaker had taken care of quite a lot of things in his first four days in the job. Feyenoord started the game in confident mood for the first time in weeks and it resulted in an early goal for the visitors by Castelen.

The ball ended up at Castelen’s feet via Van Hooijdonk, De Guzman and Huysegems and the right-winger did enough to bear keeper Brian van Loo and put Feyenoord in the driving seat.

The Rotterdammers looked to capitalise on the strike, but when De Guzman floored Antoine van der Linden on the halfway line the referee felt he had no alternative but to invite the Canadian to take an early shower.

It meant that Feyenoord were left to fend off FC Groningen for seventy minutes with one man less. It seemed to suit the Rotterdammers style of play at first, as the home side suddenly found themselves lacking creativity while Feyenoord were happy to put the willies up their opponents with some threatening counter attacking football.

Feyenoord seemed to have come through the half with their lead intact despite a couple of hair-raising moments, but an attractive attack from the home side broke the illusion right on half time. Luis Suárez played the ball into Nevland, who drove his effort across Timmer and into the far corner via the post.

The goal gave the hosts the expected lift at the start of the second period, as Ron Jans’ team swarmed threateningly around the visitors’ area, testing the water with a free kick from Paul Matthijs, which went wide, and a shot by Suárez, which was even nearer the target.

Egged on by the home crowd FC Groningen continued to put ten-man Feyenoord under wilting strain in the quest for the breakthrough. Timmer was alert on 59 minutes, parrying a Nevland effort from close in, but it seemed like it would be a matter of time before the green and white shirts grabbed the lead as they ratcheted up the pressure.

The Rotterdammers were cheering with twenty minutes left when Nicky Hofs came off the bench to make his return after months of injury hell, but the smiles went south just two minutes later. Timmer could not keep out Sankoh’s shot from well outside the box, which nestled in the top corner to give FC Groningen the edge.

As legs began to tire among the ten Feyenoord players, the home side could even have extended their lead, which would have left the Maassiders with an even tougher challenge Sunday at De Kuip. Martijn Meerdink was the first to threaten, heading a whisker wide of the post, and that inspired Koen van de Laak to use his nut too, but again the effort was off target. There was an even bigger chance for Suárez with four minutes left, but his shot ended up crashing against the bar as Feyenoord limped through the final minutes thankful that they trail by just one goal going into the second leg.

FC Groningen – Feyenoord 2-1
14’ 0-1 Castelen
45’ 1-1 Nevland
73’ 2-1 Sankoh

Yellow: Lucius, Hofs, Van de Laak, Matthijs
Red: De Guzman (21’)

Referee: Vink

Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Vlaar, Bahia, Drenthe; Buijs, Lucius, De Guzman; Castelen (71’ Hofs), Van Hooijdonk (46’ Kolkka), Huysegems (80’ Saidi)
FC Groningen: Van Loo; Svejdik (64’ Silva), Sankoh, Kruiswijk, Van der Linden; Meerdink (83’ Cornelisse), Matthijs, Lovre, Levchenko (46’ Van de Laak); Suárez, Nevland

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