Between two important CL matches, Bert van Marwijk was really hoping for only one thing – an early advantage against De Graafschap. They got exactly what they had hoped for as the Rotterdammers got their name on the board within 5 minutes. Pierre van Hooijdonk set up the attack with Emerton, and after receiving the ball back from the Australian effortlessly headed the ball into the back of the net.
It could have been the start of a glory night in De Kuip, but that was not to be. Feyenoord concentrated on possession and although they managed to keep up the tactic for some time, it started to send the Legion to sleep. The fact that the Doetinchem side offered little resistance didn’t help, although Culina wasn’t far off at the start of the first half, carefully placing a free kick so that only a great Zoetebier save kept the Feyenoord side ahead.
Feyenoord dictated the game, but nevertheless had to wait until the 28th minute for the next major chance, with Buffel putting the ball over the bar. There were a few other chances in the first half, although Song and Padou taking centre stage. Buffel continued his attacking game, first being turned by keeper Wevers, and later after taking half the pitch without opposition setting up Ono, who put the ball wide.
De Graafschap had little in response, with only one real moment of danger in the entire match, when Zoetebier had a double save after ex-Feyenoord player Van Vossen’s shot, immediately followed by Culina’s rebound.
The second half started as the first ended with Feyenoord in possession and with the best chances. Bosvelt could have treated the legion to something special after being put in the perfect spot, but the returning captain’s effort went just wide.
Feyenoord’s quest for the second goal continued, and was greatly to thank to Shinji Ono’s efforts. The Japanese player is increasingly starting to show his strength as director in the middle, with Bosvelt maintaining balance and Ono’s technical skills opening up oppositions’ defences when they least expect it. No wonder Van Marwijk is dreading receiving a letter from Japan - the Japanese national side is set to play two practice games in the near future (16 October against Jamaica and 24 November against Argentina) and strange things will have to be afoot if Ono doesn’t receive an invitation. Van Marwijk indicated before the match that he will do everything within his power to avoid Ono being away too long. “Zico is a new coach for Japan, and of course I understand that he wants to see his players at work as soon as possible. And it’s important that he remains in the spotlight of the Japanese coach. But when it comes down to it, I can’t really do without him, and certainly not for two matches. As soon as the invitation arrives, we’ll see how we react.”
Ono wasn’t the only Asian to prove his colours against De Graafschap, with Song clearly proving his worth again. The fact that he left the pitch after an hour for Lurling should therefore be seen as a defensive act by Van Marwijk more than anything else. He will have to save his strength for the top game against Newcastle United after Thomas Buffel managed to put Feyenoord 2-0 ahead. The Belgian, at least as active as his predecessor Tomasson reacted speedily to a back pass by Bakens that was too short. Buffel intercepted between defender and keeper and was untroubled putting Feyenoord into safety.
The remainder of the match was more formality than anything else, if not for Ramon van Haaren. Unluckily, his left knee failed him, and despite trying to play on, was soon replaced by Rzasa. Medical advice will indicate whether he is fit for the match against Newcastle. Feyenoord is heading for England on Monday morning.
Feyenoord-De Graafschap 2-0 (1-0)
Referee: Van Dijk
5’ 1-0 Van Hooijdonk
58’ 2-0 Buffel
Yellow card: Smit
Feyenoord: Zoetebier; Emerton, Van Wonderen, Paauwe, Van Haaren (73’Rzasa); Song (59’ Lurling), Bosvelt, Ono, Pardo (77’ Kalou); Buffel, Van Hooijdonk
De Graafschap: Wevers; Bot, Vreman, Bakens, Hermans; Culina, Van Leerdam, Turpijn (46’ Ter Avest), Valeev; Van Vossen (88’ Smit), Zafarin (61’ Van de Haar).