The all-Rotterdam playoff semi was the fourth meeting between Feyenoord and Sparta this season. A preseason friendly at De Kuip ended in a 3-0 win for the hosts. In the Eredivisie the sides drew 1-1 at the same venue, with Feyenoord taking all three points in the rematch at Het Kasteel, winning 2-0.
While Feyenoord have remained unbeaten against their city neighbours, there was no danger of the hosts underestimating Sparta on Wednesday. A strong second half of the season, especially the final run-in, had seen former Feyenoord defender Henk Fraser’s side finish eighth in the table. Dirk Advocaat was quick to point out pre-match that Sparta were on a good run and his side needed to be sharp.
The Feyenoord starting eleven showed they had listened to their coach from the first whistle. Sparta allowed the hosts to hog the ball, waiting for opportunities to break fast. Advocaat’s side were happy to move the ball from coast to coast, probing for weakness. Seeing an opening on 9 minutes, Orkun Kökcü tried his luck with a shot, inadvertently creating a huge chance for Nicolai Jørgensen. The Dane stuck his leg out as the Turkish international’s shot veered off course, but he only found the post with keeper Maduka Okoye scrambling.
The breakthrough finally came on 31 minutes. An Adil Auassar foul on Ridgeciano Haps was punished with the reward of a penalty. Steven Berghuis stepped up to send Okoye the wrong way. The club captain celebrated with the 6500 Feyenoord fans in the stadium, who scarcely had time to sit down again before they were up and cheering again.
Luis Sinisterra had them back on their feet with an impressive dribble on the left. The Colombian crossed low with Jørgensen in his sights, but Tommie Beugelsdijk got in the way. The Sparta defender tried to keep the Dane from scoring, but only managed to put the ball into his own net. Suddenly Feyenoord had the luxury of a two-goal cushion.
With the lead to fall back on they responded by closing down the space in behind and playing within themselves. It allowed Advocaat to take off Sinisterra, Jørgensen and Fer early to ensure they get enough rest ahead of the final. That will be played on Sunday at De Kuip (kick-off 12:15) against FC Utrecht, who ended the regular season in sixth place.
- Steven Berghuis