KOEMAN WINS TACTICAL BATTLE WITH VAN GAAL

Feyenoord earned a well-deserved point in Alkmaar Sunday with a fine display against second-place AZ. The Rotterdammers best opportunity came via Pierre van Hooijdonk, who nodded just wide either side of the break. AZ’s best chances came through Nourdin Boukhari and Shota Arveladze in a game that saw both Serginho Greene and Angelos Charisteas retire early due to injury.

Feyenoord travelled north with a clear mission: to stop AZ playing their natural game. Koeman added strength to his side with the introduction of Pierre van Hooijdonk alongside Charisteas, while the temperamental Timothy Derijck was given a starting place in midfield.

Koeman’s tactics proved right as the home side were unable to make a fist of it in general. Grétar Steinsson was left unmarked on the right, while Kew Jaliens – the better footballer – was never left alone by Feyenoord’s attacking duo. As a consequence, AZ looked uncharacteristically unimaginative and Feyenoord’s four-man midfield proved well up to the task of nipping any home attempts to move forward in the bud.

That said, AZ were busy in front of Henk Timmer’s goal. There were four minutes gone when the Feyenoord keeper was called into action for the first time as Moussa Dembélé shot. Subsequent attempts by Julian Jenner and Boukhari (twice) followed, but there was no major threat. This did get hairy on 40 minutes though, when Boukhari drove on in at the near post, only for Timmer to pull off a fine save.



Feyenoord had the best chances before the break. De Guzman shot wide on 17 minutes, but the Rotterdammers should really have taken the lead on the stroke of half time, when Danny Buijs beat Boy Waterman with a chip, but Steinsson cleared off the line. Van Hooijdonk powered in the resulting corner, sending his the effort centimetres wide.

The visitors fell asleep for a moment early in the second half and AZ almost exploited it. Boukhari found himself with time and space in front of Timmer, but the midfielder’s effort was weak and the keeper saved easily.

The chance might have encouraged the hosts, but it did not unshackle them. Feyenoord were playing compact and disciplined, and Erwin Koeman on the sidelines must have felt that his side could pull something off. Shots by Drenthe (saved by Waterman) and Charisteas (over) brought those hopes into sharper focus on 63 minutes.



The goal almost came at the other end though. There were 70 minutes on the clock when Arveladze played a one-two with Maarten Martens, receiving the ball back with just Timmer in front of him. The Georgian beat the keeper with his shot, but it rattled off the bar and out.

This time there was a rush on Timmer’s goal. Koeman was forced to replace both Charisteas and Greene due to injury, but his side stayed on terms and might even have claimed all three points with seven minutes left. Van Hooijdonk’s header took a deflection though and went wide. Simon Cziommer had the last opportunity of the match, but Timmer saved his free kick.

AZ – Feyenoord 0-0

Bookings: Castelen, Van Hooijdonk, De Zeeuw
Referee: Braamhaar

AZ: Waterman; Steinsson, Jaliens, Opdam (46’ Luirink), De Cler; Jenner, De Zeeuw, Martens, Boukhari (60’ Koevermans); Dembélé, Arveladze (70’ Cziommer)
Feyenoord: Timmer; Vlaar, Greene (84’ Saidi), Bahia; Buijs, Derijck, De Guzman, Drenthe; Castelen (90’ Vincken), Charisteas (73’ Huysegems), Van Hooijdonk

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