‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Feyenoord defeated Espanyol in Nanjing’s all-new Olympic Sports Center Sunday with Dirk Kuyt in the starring role. The new club captain scored both first-half goals as Feyenoord went on to secure a 2-1 win against a team that finished fifth in last season’s Spanish Primera Liga. Erwin Koeman’s team looked impressively fit in overcoming the Iberians despite tropical temperatures in Nanjing and will surely go into Friday’s game against Uruguay’s Nacional full of confidence.
Feyenoord started full of beans despite the heat, with Castelen looking particularly sharp on the right where David Garcia found himself beaten on a number of occasions early on.
That speed in attack paid dividends as early as the ninth minute, when Kuyt drew enthusiastic cheers from the crowd by beating his marker, before opening the scoring with a volley.
After the goal Feyenoord played on the counter to great effect. With Pardo in a conspicuously creative role alongside Ghaly in the midfield, the threats started to become more and more frequent and workhorse Kuyt got his second goal on nineteen. He started the move himself by feeding Pardo, and smashed the ball into the net when the Chilean returned the compliment.
Feyenoord had a bunch of chances to wrap up the game in those early stages. The best fell to Edwin de Graaf. The move was initiated by Hossam Ghaly, who found Kuyt and the new captain put De Graaf through on goal. The midfielder managed to get the ball past the Spanish keeper, but was ultimately frustrated by the post.
But the opportunities continued to come for the Rotterdammers. Kalou in particular went close on a couple of occasions. Espanyol on the other hand were little more than bit players. Only Ivan DelaPeña looked anywhere near a threat, and the best Spanish attempts came from his free kicks. That will be a concern for Koeman, who witnessed some creaky dead-ball defending by his team.
It was no surprise then that the Spaniards got one back from a dead-ball situation. The game was a half-hour old when Argentina’s Pochettino latched onto DelaPeña’s free kick to net.
Feyenoord lost their way after the goal but the Iberians were unable to capitalise themselves and the Maassiders remained in front at the break.
The second half was less exciting than the first, but that was not a great surprise considering the conditions. Feyenoord did carve out a couple of chances – a shot from Kuyt; a header from substitute Lazovic – and Espanyol almost snatched an equaliser at the death, but there was no further scoring.
Match winner Dirk Kuyt was taken off to a great reception from the small band of Feyenoord fans ten minutes from the end and the new captain admitted to having a good feeling about the workout. ‘After a period when people have been negative about us this was a positive signal. We worked hard as a team and were rewarded for that.’
9’ 1-0 Kuyt
19’ 2-0 Kuyt
Feyenoord: Aerts; Ostlund, Greene, Bahia, Snoyl (70’ Derijck); Castelen (77’ Vincken), De Graaf, Ghaly (74’ Paauwe), Pardo; Kalou, Kuyt (81’ Lazovic)
Espanyol: Gorki; Jarque; Lopo, Pochettino, Garcia (75’ Domi); Corominas, Costa (61` Jonathan), Fredson, Riera; DelaPeña (67’ Hector), Tamudo.