A cascade of first division clinched wins this weekend!
It’s easy to be cynical about Juve and Ajax earning their respective league wins in Italy and the Netherlands, seeing as they share 61 titles between them (no, not 63). But both Antonio Conte and Frank de Boer (the latter in particular) are no mere caretakers riding the crest of their clubs’ historical dominance.
In Conte’s case, it’s his second successive Scudetto, clinched with a 1-0 defeat of Palermo. The result reflected Juve’s strength’; while their 67 goals this season is among the lowest the big five European leagues and is tied with second place Napoli, they only conceded twenty goals. That’s only five more than Bayern conceded this season (which should underline how effing incredible Bayern have been). The likes of Chiellini and Bonucci have been integral in that defense, and certainly the presence of Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal in front of them hasn’t hurt either.
Ajax on the other hand faced an incredible challenge from PSV, Feyenoord and Vitesse almost to the very end of the Eredivisie. With a midfield steeped in Frank de Boer’s throwback Dutch principles, the veteran talent of 33-year-old Christian Poulsen complimented well the goal-scoring ability of Siem de Jong and the incredible season-long consistency of Christian Eriksen, whose talent, versatility and creativity will put his name in many a headline during this summer’s transfer grind.
For de Boer, it is an historic accomplishment. Three Ajax titles both as a player and a coach. Moreover, de Boer’s team can join Louis van Gaal and Rinus Michels with three consecutive wins, major company indeed.
Ajax all but clinches their third consecutive Eredivisie title with a thrilling victory behind enemy lines at Philips Stadion.
For the first time in 18 years Ajax completes the double versus PSV Eindhoven.While exciting, the game was littered with errors. To be honest, that’s what makes this fun. Title races across Europe have long been over, but the battle in Holland was the final domino to fall. PSV will feel hard done by the result. They carried play for large stretches before succumbing to their rivals thanks to an odd substitution by Dick Advocaat.
Erik Pieters hadn’t played since January. His last appearance at Philips ended with a red card and a trip to the hospital. Jetro Willems drew the ire of Advocaat after being exposed by Lasse Schöne. Pieters came on for Willems soon after and everything went to hell.
Pieters’ gaffe in the 77th minute led to Derk Boerrigter’s match winner. The defender’s mistake will garner the headlines, but Boerrigter did well to keep his composure.
Ajax had won one of their last seven away games when conceding more than 10 shots. PSV managed 17 today. The Rood-witten dominated the opening 20 minutes. Ajax, didn’t need three points and it showed in the early moments. Jeremain Lens, PSV’s best player on this day, was buzzing. Read the rest of this entry »
All Eredivisie all the time. Feyenoord defeated PSV 2-1 at De Kuip Stadion today, closing the gap at the top. De Stadionclub trail PSV by only three points, but the story from today’s game will center around a post match dust up between Joris Mathijsen and Jeremain Lens. Excuse me for being a boorish grunt – FIGHT. FIGHT FIGHT. The two players involved had gone at it all day. Lens, embittered by the loss, chose to lash out after the game. Not enough bloodied noses for the amount of screaming.
Alfred Finnbogason and Heerenveen stun Twente at Abe Lenstra Stadion, all but ensuring another pink slip for Steve McClaren.
Normally I don’t condone willful ignorance, but with a dearth of games on this afternoon –no more Barcelona for a while, can’t do it– I watched Heerenveen host Twente in some hot Eredivise action. This was the first Dutch game I watched this year that didn’t involve Ajax or PSV, thus the ignorance part. Broadening your horizons is sage advice.
Twente manager and former England punching bag Steve McClaren has worn out his welcome in Twente. The team hasn’t won a league game since December 21, falling six points behind table leaders PSV. The team bus was the target of angry supporters after a draw with PEC Zwolle on February 10th. Today’s result won’t help the cause.
Rajiv Van La Parra opened the scoring in the 15th minute, taking advantage of a horrific back pass by Leroy Fer. La Parra made it look easy, beating Nikolay Mihaylov and sending McClaren into dry heaves in the process. It got worse.
Twente responded well to the early setback, controlling play and generating chances for a ten minute stretch. Keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt easily handled a Fer header in the 26th minute.
Ten minutes. That was it. Heerenveen, namely La Parra, went back to carving the Twente defense on the wings. Edson Braafheid made a great play to prevent La Parra’s cross from finding the foot of an unnamed Heerenveen.
I say unnamed because the stream I was watching this game on was incredibly bad. The announcers, however, were pretty great.
McClaren made two changes at half, inserting German youngster Tim Hölscher and Dmitry Bulykin into the lineup. It was a master stroke. Bulykin connected on an excellent cross from Felipe Gutierrez, heading the ball past Nordfeldt for the equalizer.
Twente went on to dominate the second half, but failed to capitalize on a series of chances that were left wanting. Dusan Tadic, their leading goal scorer with 11 goals in 14 games, was terrific. Fer sent a header just wide in the 72nd minute. A Hölscher chance, made possible by a great pass from Tadic, went just over the bar minutes later. A goal was coming.
Just not for them. Alfred Finnbogason– also known as the Icelandic Messi– scored his 17th goal of the season and sent manager Marco Van Basten into hysterics on the touchline. Finnbogason’s go ahead marker was made by possible by yet another excellent cross from La Parra.
To add insult to injury, Braafheid acted like a child after being sent off late. The 29-year-old defender refused to leave the pitch and got into a verbal battle with his teammate before making an excruciatingly slow walk to the tunnel. His team was down by a goal with three minutes left in the game. Bush league.
McClaren’s men go six games without a victory and are all but eliminated from title contention. I hope Steve was renting.
This was fun. I’ll make an effort to give the Eredivisie more coverage on the weekends going forward. To the four of you still reading, thank you. You make it all worth it.
So as Manchester United are 12 points clear, and in doing so bending predictive statistics on Total Shots Ration and Shots on Target PDO in the process (something that may have to do with both luck and Man United’s considerable dominance when level with the opposition).
That means the Premier League is over. You can throw in for the relegation battle if you must, but that’s football’s sloppy seconds, a mess of club schadenfreude masquerading as footballing excitement and Big Four glory-hunter tourism (i.e., don’t watch Villa please).
So what to do? The Champions League is back this week, but then you need something to watch on Saturdays because you’re a glutton. You want reasonably attractive football from teams you know a little about, in a language kind of phonetically similar to English.
Yep, the Eredivisie.
There are so many reasons to enjoy the Dutch league, it’s hard to know where to begin. The league’s trust in—or reliance on— its youth academy product, for one. Also, the Netherlands is a hotbed for advanced statistics in football, for some reason, including a recent initiative to start an analytics blog on a mainstream newspaper site.
But mostly for the fact that, as of writing, there are four teams in contention for the title, with PSV on top with 47 points and Ajax and Feyenoord tied for second on 44, with Twente a point behind those two.
Moreover, you can watch the Eredivisie, for about $10 a month, on your computer. And if you’re worried about being a hipster, just support Ajax. Seriously, throw-in now. Read the rest of this entry »