It might have been a different story if Feyenoord had wrapped it up in the opening phase; they certainly had the chances. First Ono brought the best out of opposition goalie Postma with an exquisite curler that the home keeper just managed to keep out. Not long after, Van Persie broke free and made room for a shot that should have hit the target, but the youngster pulled his effort wide.
The chances were certainly for Feyenoord. Van Hooijdonk rifled in a fantastic volley from the edge of the box that just missed the target and the visitors continued to press for the opener. De Graafschap, however, were proving to be a tough nut and ex-Feyenoorder Peter van Vossen on the left in particular caused a lot of problems while failing to really create any great openings.
On twenty minutes the Legion’s hands went up in the air, but Van Hooijdonk’s free kick landed on top of the net and the home side breathed again.
The home side were gaining in confidence and as the first half drew to a close De Graafschap turned the screw. Valeev’s shot was wide of the mark on 38 minutes but it did act as a spur to the blue and whites. Within a short space of time Meerdink and Vreeman both went close.
Van Hooijdonk almost stole the glory in the dying minutes when the big man sent in a rasping free kick from well outside normal range, only to see his effort thunder back off the bar and the teams went in at the break level pegging.
The second half was much the same as the two sides showed more fight than finesse. The first chances fell to Feyenoord, but as the clock continued to run down Van Marwijk brought on Leonardo for Van Persie. Unfortunately, within a minute the goal had materialised at the other end, when Valeev wormed his way through a clutch of players to shoot past Zoetebier to put De Graafschap one up.
It signalled the start of a hectic period from the visitors. Van Marwijk didn’t delay and threw on Gyan for the injured Ono and then Korneev for Kalou, but it didn’t pay off. Indeed, things only got worse, when Pierre van Hooijdonk lost his temper with René Bot and was sent packing by referee Temmink. By then it was clear there was no way back.
The loss leaves the Rotterdammers well off the pace in third place in the Eredivisie ahead of Sunday’s bronze medal showdown at home to Heereveen.
De Graafschap-Feyenoord 1-0 (0-0)
66’ 1-0 Valeev
De Graafschap: Postma; Bot, Nok, Vreman, Fränkel; Van den Brom, Meerdink, Leerdam; Turpijn, Valeev, Van Vossen.
Feyenoord: Zoetebier; Emerton, Van Wonderen, Paauwe, Rzasa; Kalou (77’Kalou), Bosvelt, Ono (72’ Gyan), Van Persie (65’ Leonardo); Tomasson, Van Hooijdonk.
Referee: R.H.J. Temmink
Yellow card: Tomasz Rzasa
Red card: Pierre van Hooijdonk