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Feyenoord into Europa Conference League preliminaries

Feyenoord beat FC Utrecht in Sunday’s Euro play-off at De Kuip. Dick Advocaat’s side won 2-0 to qualify for the second preliminary round of the Europa Conference League. It was an emotional day in Rotterdam, as Feyenoord said goodbye to a number of staff members, not least the head coach himself.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday evening until Rotterdam’s Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb refused to allow it to avoid a clash with the Eurovision Song Contest, which was also taking place in the city. When the KNVB set the new kick-off date and time, Feyenoord agreed, but FC Utrecht appealed. On Friday the court decided in favour of the KNVB’s new date.

The ruling meant that Feyenoord were able to benefit from home advantage, which it had earned by finishing fifth in the Eredivisie. And the 6,500 fans in the stadium made a big difference. The atmosphere at De Kuip was a reminder of the days before the pandemic. Feyenoord’s twelfth man drove their side on, bringing added energy that gave them the edge.

Feyenoord were up for the fight, showing a lot of passion and power in the tackles. FC Utrecht found it hard to live with the hosts and had their backs against the wall for most of the first half. That dominance allowed Feyenoord’s flair players to shine. This time it was Luis Sinisterra. The Colombian followed good work from Jens Toornstra and Ridgeciano Haps by beating his man and poking the ball into the top left-hand corner.

The goal on 25 minutes gave Feyenoord a boost and above all renewed confidence. FC Utrecht did get back into the game after the second half, testing the home defence on occasions, but Advocaat’s side didn’t panic. Even when Gyrano Kerk had a tap in at the far post on 67 minutes. Justin Bijlow slid in magnificently to deny the visitors an equaliser.

The hosts had to wait until injury time to seal the deal and start the party. Substitute Bryan Linssen began his run at exactly the right time, sprinting onto a Steven Berghuis through-ball. Avoiding the offside trap, Linssen slid the ball into the right-hand corner. That confirmed Feyenoord’s win and qualification for the second preliminary round of the Europa Conference League at FC Utrecht’s expense.

The first leg of that preliminary round is scheduled for 22 July, with the return set for 29 July. Dick Advocaat, Cor Pot, Bas van Noortwijk and Casper van Eijck are among those who will not be at Feyenoord when those fixtures come around. They were given a fitting farewell at the 1908 complex after the match.