Erwin Koeman pointed up the danger of going into the game unfocused following the win against Ajax, after a similar defeat of PSV at the end of 2005 was followed by a loss in The Hague. Koeman was adamant that Sunday’s win would not be made less valuable by dropped points in Nijmegen.
Feyenoord did have to weather a furious storm in the opening period however, as the Nijmegen outfit looked to get a perfect start. Patrick Lodewijks had to earn his keep as early as the third minute when David Jones ripped off a spicy drive, but the experienced keeper was able to hit the effort round the post. Despite the pressure, the Rotterdammers managed to keep their feet relatively easily. The biggest chance came on 26, when Edgar Barretto combined well with Saïd Boutahar, but the former Feyenoorder was unable to trouble Lodewijks with his effort.
A Ron Vlaar error let in Denneboom a little later, but the home striker was unable to capitalise fully, and Lodewijks dealt with his shot comfortably. By that time Feyenoord had started to control the game. Romeo Castelen rattled the post on the half hour and Patrick Paauwe saw his free kick punched away by Gábor Babos. In the end though, the sides went in at half time without the deadlock having been broken.
Pascal Bosschaart stayed in the dressing room at the end of the break, as Royston Drenthe was introduced but NEC were again quickest out of the blocks, pushing back the visitors. Unfortunately for Feyenoord the hosts were a little sharper than they had been before the turnaround and it resulted in an opening goal for NEC just before the hour. Lodewijks managed to scramble away Niedzielan’s initial header, but when the home side attacked again he was not so lucky. Serginho Greene and Vlaar looked sluggish as Denneboom was given the opportunity to take a pop from twenty metres and this time he was more successful, netting to give his side the lead.
Koeman decided that he needed an extra attacker to try to get his side back in the game, bringing on Pierre van Hooijdonk for Hofs on 61. The big man’s introduction had the desired effect and Feyenoord start to generate the chances they so sorely needed. Van Hooijdonk himself set up both Kalou and Kuyt with good opportunities, but both strikers failed to hit the target – Kalou shot over, while Kuyt lacked the power to direct his header into the corner. Kalou went close again not long after, but this time Babos held on to his drive.
With just over a quarter of an hour to go Van Hooijdonk’s reverse header found Drenthe, who was too hasty in shooting over, but it was clear that the home side were creaking under the weight of Van Hooijdonk’s presence and with seven minutes left Feyenoord got the breakthrough. Castelen rattled the ball into a crowded home penalty box, sowing panic in the defence, who just couldn’t get the ball away. In the end, Peter Wisgerhof tried to hoof it away, but found Dirk Kuyt’s legs in the way and the ball was deflected into the net.
The joy and the pain were intensified right at the death as Feyenoord were ultimately rewarded for a wholehearted display when Kuyt fired in the winner to give the Rotterdammers a hard-fought three points.
NEC Nijmegen – Feyenoord 1-2
57’ 1-0 Denneboom
83’ 1-1 Kuyt
90’ 1-2 Kuyt
Referee: Van Hulten
Yellow: Bosschaart, Van der Doelen, Denneboom, Barreto
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Greene, Vlaar, Bahia, Bosschaart (46’ Drenthe); Hofs (61’ Van Hooijdonk), Paauwe (83’ Boussaboun), De Guzman; Castelen, Kuyt, Kalou.
NEC: Babos; Wielaert, Olsson, Wisgerhof, Leiwakabessy; Barretto (83’ Pothuizen), Boutahar, Van der Doelen, Jones; Denneboom, Niedzielan (87’ Grot).