‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
A final-minute Dirk Kuyt goal rescued a point in Sunday afternoon’s Eredivisie encounter with Ajax at De Kuip. The atmosphere was electric for what’s always the hottest game in Dutch football and that last-gasp Kuyt strike – equalising a 71st minute Ibrahimovic opener – earned the home side a standing ovation at match’s end.
The crowd was in high-octane mood and the sides clearly were too, as the 48th edition of Feyenoord v Ajax started at breakneck speed.
Feyenoord had the first opportunity, when Dirk Kuyt was put through by Shinji Ono on eight minutes. Kuyt was unable to keep his shot on target.
Van der Vaart was first to threaten on behalf of the Amsterdam side. He redirected a Sikora cross towards the far corner of the net, but Edwin Zoetebier was up to the challenge. The home keeper denied the away captain again on half an hour as Zoetebier turned in a man of the match performance.
Just before the break Feyenoord looked to have fallen behind when Van der Vaart tested Zoetebier again with a point-blank header from a Pienaar cross. The home keeper was up to the challenge again however and the score remained goalless.
After the half-time oranges and tea, Ajax came in search of an opening goal once more. This time Sneijer seemed to have broken the deadlock with a powerful bullet strike towards the top corner, but Zoetebier got up well to parry.
Van Marwijk’s men had already squandered the best chance in the game four minutes after the turnaround. Ono cut up the defence with his surgical pass and Buffel whisked past Galasek. A free Smolarek waited for the pass, but the Belgian international went for glory: his shot found the side-netting.
The attempt caused the legion to turn up the volume and Feyenoord drew strength from the extra decibels.
But silence broke on 67 minutes. Hossam Ghaly was skinned by Van der Vaart on the left and he found Ibrahimovic, who used up a huge slice of that notorious Ajax fortune to get the ball over the line and give the champions-elect the lead.
The stadium was soon on fire again when Kuyt squared up to Van der Vaart, earning both a yellow card.
Robin van Persie was brought on for Lurling and Feyenoord continued to probe, but a lack of luck and insufficient insight continued to stand in the home side’s way. Lazovic came in for Van den Berg in a death or glory move by Van Marwijk, but that didn’t appear to help either.
Until the clock started ticking down the final official minute of play. Van Persie launched a dazzling cross from the left and Kuyt struck with the utmost aplomb, hitting the back of the net and sending the crowd into rapture.
In the remaining three minutes Feyenoord made a go of it and Lazovic was inches over with a header from Ono’s free kick, but in the end there was no further scoring.
Feyenoord-Ajax 1-1 (0-0)
67’ 0-1 Ibrahimovic
89’ 1-1 Kuyt
Feyenoord: Zoetebier; Gyan (82’ Swerts), Van den Berg (80’ Lazovic), Paauwe, Mtiliga; Smolarek, Ghaly, Ono, Lurling (72’ Van Persie); Buffel, Kuyt.
Ajax: Lobont, De Jong, Heitinga, Escudé, Maxwell; Galasek, Sneijder (74’ Yakubu), Van der Vaart; Pienaar, Ibrahimovic (79’ Anastasiou), Sikora (64’ Mitea).
Referee: D. Jol
Yellows: Pienaar, Kuyt, Van der Vaart