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Til hat-trick sends Feyenoord through in thriller

Feyenoord managed to advance to the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League on Thursday, but it was a lot closer than anyone at De Kuip would have wanted. Kosovo side FC Drita led 2-1 at one stage and looked to be progressing, but a tripe strike by Guus Til saved the day, as the hosts scraped through 3-2.
The first leg in Pristina had ended goalless, so Feyenoord were set on getting an early goal on home territory to stamp their authority on the tie. FC Drita were expected to lean heavily on a defensive playbook, so head coach would have been delighted when Guus Til netted an opener for the hosts on seven minutes.

Short corner
The goal came from a nicely worked short corner, which Slot and his assistants had worked on with his players after a fruitless evening of long crosses in Kosovo. The incoming ball was nodded back by Bryan Linssen, giving Til a comfortable header to score. But even then, the visitors were already looking dangerous on the break and Slot would have been concerned despite the early lead.

Those worst fears were realised on 12 minutes. Marko Simonovski got in front of his man to net an equaliser. Then, four minutes later, Astrit Fazliu pounced when Leroy Fer slipped up, beating Justin Bijlow with his shot to silence the 25,000 crowd at De Kuip.

White knuckles
No one had really entertained the thought of having to turn round a deficit, but the Kosovars were long able to defend their lead. The game was 67 minutes old by the time Til managed to get his side on terms, heading in impressively from a Marcos Senesi cross. But as the clock ticked down Feyenoord were still finding it hard to break the visitors’ resolve. The breakthrough finally came in the final seconds, when Til reacted fastest to a rebound, netting his third of the night and releasing the tension in the stadium.

The goal secured a win for Feyenoord and so qualification for the third qualifying round of Europa Conference League. But the hosts were under no illusions after the final whistle, fully aware that they had seriously underperformed. FC Drita had been able to create a raft of chances, even when the score was at 2-2. It was clear to all that a much better performance would be needed in a week’s time away at FC Luzern.