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Two dropped points in Feyenoord’s first visit to Groningen’s new Euroborg stadium severely dented the Rotterdammer’s title hopes Sunday. The home sides started a high-octane match best, taking an early lead through Mark-Jan Fledderus, and Pierre Van Hooijdonk’s 71-minute equaliser could not inspire Feyenoord to go on and snatch all the points in a game that saw Patrick Lodewijks hobble off before half time with a potentially nasty injury. Feyenoord are now seven points behind league leaders PSV with just eight games remaining.
Feyenoord started the game in the knowledge that the gap to leaders PSV had been extended by the Eindhoven side’s win at third-place AZ, but it is unclear whether that was the reason for the visitors below par performance in the opening period. The home side’s power also made things tough. The Eredivisie’s fifth-placed side were clearly out to make things difficult for the Rotterdammers, although there was also plenty of quality in the Groningen outfit’s game.
Coach Ron Jans saw his side drive back Feyenoord from the kick off and the first opening fell to Mark-Jan Fledderus after just three minutes. The midfielder couldn’t quite prevent his shot from rising just too high however, as the ball crashed against the bar with Lodewijks well beaten. A few minutes later Yuri Cornelisse let fly one of his own, but this time the Feyenoord keeper managed to beat the ball away. Next up was an attractive move involving Gijs Luirink and Danny Buijs, which Fledderus latched onto in space right in front of Lodewijks, who could not stop the midfielder from slipping the ball into the net, despite getting a hand to it.
Kalou was the only Feyenoord player to trouble the home keeper before the half ended, but keeper Bas Roorda was able to fist the ball out. The game was just 28 minutes old when Koeman told Pierre van Hooijdonk to warm up and this time it was simply not a signal to the team on the pitch to buck up their ideas, because the big man was introduced just past the half-hour mark. Nicky Hofs made way for the substitute, which was not a great way for the midfielder to round off a week in which he had been selected for the full Dutch squad for the first time. But Hofs was not the only Feyenoord player to see the changing room ahead of half time, as Lodewijks left the pitch close to the break with what looked like a serious knee injury after a collision. Maikel Aerts took over between the sticks.
The Rotterdammers started the second half a lot better. Chances were slow in coming but in time Kuyt, Castelen and Kalou all threatened to burst the home side’s bubble. FC Groningen responded with hard work and more than a few fouls, referee Jol airing his yellow card for the fifth time not long after the break – all of them going to home players. Kuyt set up Castelen in a goal-scoring position on 65 with the outside of his foot, but the striker showed less deftness with his finish, pulling his attempt wide. Kalou missed the target not long after when he couldn’t keep his shot down.
Feyenoord were showing the lion’s share of the initiative though and the reward for that came on 71. Van Hooijdonk stroked a rebound home in the far corner with pinpoint accuracy to level matters. It was the big man’s first goal since his return to Rotterdam and it fired up the whole team as Feyenoord went for a winner. Castelen might have supplied it had Roorda not beaten out his shot after a long bout of possession.
Seconds later Roorda was chanceless when Jonathan de Guzman whipped in a shot cum cross that threatened to go in but the ball hit the bar.
Both sides invested a lot of sweat into denying the other any points, which made for an entertaining game, but in the end Kuyt went closest to deciding the game in the Maassiders’ favour, only to see his shot miss the target with seconds left, leaving PSV the big winners of the day.
FC Groningen – Feyenoord 1-1
11’ 1-0 Fledderus
71’ 1-1 Van Hooijdonk
Yellow: Luirink, Cornelisse, Van de Laak, Salmon, Van der Linden
Feyenoord: Lodewijks (45’ Aerts); Greene, Vlaar, Bahia, Bosschaart; Hofs (34’ Van Hooijdonk), Paauwe, De Guzman; Castelen, Kuyt, Kalou.
FC Groningen: Roorda; Van der Linden, Luirink, Sankoh, Kruiswijk; Fledderus (78’ Levchenko), Van de Laak, Lindgren, Buijs; Cornelisse (78’ Nevland), Salmon (84’ Seedorf).