‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Feyenoord drew back alongside AZ at the top of the Eredivisie Boxing Day with an opportunistic win against the league leaders at De Kuip. Erwin Koeman was delighted to see his side take an early two-goal lead, with strikes by Patrick Paauwe and Jonathan de Guzman. And despite being forced back into defence for much of the game after that, Feyenoord held on to sweep away the Christmas cobwebs with yet another big home win in December.
Although not quite ready to start, Shinji Ono was added to the eighteen-man squad for the first time in months. It was a logical move, because it was creativity that was most lacking in the matches against ADO and Roda JC. But against the high-flying visitors Feyenoord showed a different side to themselves in midfield. Hossam Ghaly, Paauwe and especially looked strong in mid-park and it allowed the Maassiders to get off to a flying start.
It meant that the home side were already two ahead as early as the eighth minute. Paauwe grabbed the first with just two played, converting a shot, and six minutes later the lead was doubled when Paauwe turned provider, putting through De Guzman with an inch-perfect pass, and the Canadian beat two defenders before slotting home in the near corner.
It was a frustrated AZ that restarted for the second occasion in a short space of time and the visitors did their utmost to get within striking distance before half time. It earned Van Gaal’s team three yellow cards and two opportunities to net. On 21 Lodewijks was unable to control Shota Arveladze’s shot and it looked as though Kenneth Perez would strike home the rebound, but the Dane fell over in his eagerness, kicking the ball out of play.
Van Perez was next to try, having two bites of the cherry from a free kick, but failed to keep the ball on target either time. Feyenoord might have made the away side’s task even harder just before the turnaround, when the ball came via Ghaly and Alexander Östlund to the feet of Salomon Kalou, Timmer got his fingers on the way.
AZ kept hoping for a change of fortune and the two substitutions made by Van Gaal showed that the league leaders were not about to throw in the towel. The visiting coach brought on Pius Ikedia for Tarik Sektioui in an attempt to exploit Bosschaart’s lack of pace and the African was the first to threaten in the second half on behalf of the Alkmaar team. His shot went past the post however.
Feyenoord found themselves on the defensive foot as AZ pressed the home side back and there were sighs of relive when Arveladze’s drive was tipped away for a corner by Lodewijks on 55. But the out-of-towners clearly had the bit between their teeth and Arveladze, Ikedia and Meerdink all rifled off shots on goal in a spell of sustained pressure. The Georgian was closest to breaking through, but the bar saved the home side.
With Feyenoord under intense pressure, it was surprising that AZ were not able to bring the deficit back to a single goal, and that had an effect on the table-toppers, who started to loosen their grip on the match with ten left on the clock.
Indeed, the Rotterdammers might have been the ones to add to their tally late on when Kuyt tried his luck, but he was unable to keep his attempt down and the ball sailed over.
Feyenoord – AZ 2-0
2´ 1-0 Paauwe
8´ 2-0 De Guzman
Yellow: Huysegems, De Zeeuw, Landzaat, Ghaly
Feyenoord: Lodewijks, Östlund, Bahia, Greene, Bosschaart; Ghaly, Paauwe, De Guzman; Boussaboun, Kuyt, Kalou (87´ Pardo).
AZ: Timmer; Jaliens, Mathijsen, Opdam (46´ Meerdink), De Cler; Landzaat, Sektioui (46´ Ikedia), De Zeeuw; Arveladze, Perez (81´ Koevermans), Huysegems.