Feyenoord secured all three points at Vitesse’s Gelredome stadium Sunday, taking an important step towards the Champions League playoffs in the process. Pierre van Hooijdonk scored the vital winning goal with around ten minutes left. The home side did have opportunities to snatch two points away from the Maassiders in the closing stages, but fine keeping by Henk Timmer and a lack of precision among the Arnhem attackers meant that Erwin Koeman’s team held on. Danny Buijs and Royston Drenthe were both carded and will miss next week’s match against FC Groningen. Feyenoord wore black armbands in memory of Henmk Timmer’s mother, who passed away recently.

Jonathan de Guzman admitted in the match-day magazine that the battle for fifth place is weighing heavy on the players’ shoulders. That could have explained the start Feyenoord made to the match at Gelredome stadium, because the Rotterdammers looked shaky in the opening stages of the encounter.

Vitesse looked to put a dramatic start to the year behind them by drawing first blood against their big-city visitors. Anduele Pryor had the first opportunity to do so on four minutes, but Timmer was able to save with his feet. Danko Lazovic loaded the gun in that move, supplying the final pass, and he was did it again a little later, playing in Fred Benson, who was unable to beat Timmer, despite two bites of the cherry.

After that big chance for the home side, the game swung towards the visitors. Feyenoord were holding onto the ball better and the threatening Romeo Castelen was also seeing more action, as Vitesse started to feel a bit of pressure. It led to yellow cards for Sieb Blondelle and Ruud Knol, both of whom resorted to illegal means to stop the winger. One of the resulting free kicks was poked just wide by Royston Drenthe on 38 minutes.

The visitors’ biggest chance came just ahead of the break. Castelen was creator, getting close in before firing in a dangerous drive that whistled across the goal.

Things brightened up after the turnaround, as both teams went in search of a goal that would give them two vital extra points. The consequence was some impressive passages of play.

As the clock struck the hour mark, Feyenoord upped the pressure on the home side and that resulted in a number of chances. The first fell to Castelen, who saw his shot beaten away by Vladimir Stojkovic. The Serbian keeper was back in action a few minutes later, when he parried a Buijs effort. A third attempt – this time from Ron Vlaar – did not trouble the home goalie, as the ball went well wide.

Feyenoord had failed to breach the Vitesse defence despite some fine pressure and it was looking increasingly likely that the game would end in stalemate. The breakthrough did come on 75 minutes however, although there was plenty of fortune in the strike. Van Hooijdonk rattled off a shot on the edge of the area that ricocheted off a defender’s legs and back to the big man, who struck true this time to beat Stojkovic and give his side the lead against one of his former clubs.

The away contingent were clearly delighted with the goal, but with 11 minutes still left on the clock the game was far from won. That was proven near the end when Timmer was forced into action to keep Benson’s header from crossing the line and things got even more perilous just after when Drenthe headed off the line. Lazovic almost had the last word when he latched onto a cross in injury time, but the Serbian’s header went wide of the post, as Feyenoord held on for all three precious points.

Vitesse – Feyenoord 0-1
79’ 0-1 Van Hooijdonk

Bookings: Buijs, Vlaar, Drenthe, Benson, Blondelle, Knol
Referee: Van de Velde (Bel)

Vitesse: Stojkovic; Sprockel, Espinoza (83’ Junker), Knol, Blondelle;
Verhaegh, Esajas, Janssen, Pryor (75’ Kaya); Lazovic, Benson
Feyenoord: Timmer; Buijs, Vlaar, Schreuder (82’ Saidi), Bahia; Derijck, De
Guzman, Drenthe; Castelen, Charisteas, Van Hooijdonk
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