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Feyenoord top group after last-gasp Dessers strike

Feyenoord claimed a place in the last sixteen of the Europa Conference League with a 2-2 draw at Slavia Prague on Thursday. On a rollercoaster evening in the Czech capital, Cyriel Dessers came off the bench to net twice, including an injury time equaliser for the visitors, who had been reduced to ten men in the first half.
Arriving for the fifth round Group E match against the Czech Fortuna Liga leaders, Feyenoord knew that a draw would be enough to secure top spot and qualification for the round of 16 with a game to go. But it turned out to be a far from straightforward evening for the visitors, who had to battle hard for their point. The Sinobo Stadium was rocking as the home side went into the final stages 2-1 ahead.

It had not been the best of evenings for Ofir Marciano. In goal for Justin Bijlow, who was unable to travel after a positive covid test, Marciano didn’t look great for the two Slavia goals. The first came on 12 minutes and was soon followed by more negative news, as Bryan Linssen was forced off with vision problems. He was replaced by Cyriel Dessers. Things went from bad to worse ten minutes before the break, when Guus Til was shown a red card after a tackle.

More positive was Feyenoord’s equaliser on the half-hour mark. Dessers showed his value as a super-sub again, keeping a cool head when Jens Toornstra played it back to him to find the back of the net with a hard left-footed shot.

Playing with a man less, Feyenoord tried to shut the game down after the break. The strategy worked well for the first 20 minutes or so, until Marciano spilled a speculative effort and Jan Kutcha nipped in to edge the Czechs ahead. The visitors responded well, but their fight looked in vain as the clock ticked down relentlessly without a tangible return.

The fairy-tale ending did ultimately arrive, however, and it was that man Dessers again who pinched a point for Feyenoord. A specialist in late, late strikes this season, this time Desser connected with a cross from another substitute Lutsharel Geertruida to head in an equaliser on 93 minutes. It was met with an outburst of emotion on the pitch, on the bench and, of course, in the away section, as the Feyenoord family celebrated the point that confirmed the visitors place in the last 16 of the Europa Conference League with one group game still to play.