‘If you’d asked us this morning if we wanted to play, we’d have probably said ‘no’,’ was how assistant coach John de Wolf put it, a statement that summed up the feeling in the squad ahead of the tie. But as head coach Dick Advocaat added: ‘We cannot ask that question because we have to play.’
Advocaat hoped his team could find the energy to play and qualify for the semi-final ‘for Carlo’. And his side certainly started the game fired up. The hosts were pushed back into their own half and Feyenoord created a rush of chances.
It was Leroy Fer who got the breakthrough. Jens Toornstra found Marcos Senesi with a free kick and the Argentinian headed the ball back to Fer, who nodded it into the right-hand corner. It was a poignant moment the player whose relationship with De Leeuw went back the furthest.
Feyenoord had to dig deep to defend the lead, as the hosts gained the upper hand as the half wore on. The pressure was ratcheted up after the break and the visitors had to work desperately at times to keep the clean sheet. Justin Bijlow was excellent in goal, making some crucial saves to protect the lead.
The victory earned Feyenoord a spot in the final four of the KNVB Cup. The tie will be played at De Kuip with NAC Breda the opponents. Even more importantly on the night was the honour the team did to the memory of dearly departed Feyenoord cup hero Carlo de Leeuw.
- Leroy Fer