If there has ever been a goal worthy of winning a Championship, then Theo Janssen’s effort for Twente against title rivals PSV was just that. If you, dear reader, have not already seen it then I strongly suggest using a popular video website to find it. We’ll still be here when you get back.
Impressive, was it not? Right, to business…
Ahead of Saturday’s potential title decider, Twente sat a point behind PSV with a significantly trickier final five fixtures to negotiate, including sorties to both the impregnable Den Haag Stadion and the ArenA. PSV have been solid but unspectacular all season – in no small part due to their lack of any kind of recognised goalscorer – and have been unable to beat their title rivals in any of their previous meetings.
Twente, by contrast, have been ruthless in the defence of their title, and have a number of attacking options: Theo Janssen, Luuk de Jong and Marc Janko have all registered double figures for the season. When PSV snatch a late winner it always seems out of desperation. When Twente do so it always seems as if their endeavours have been justly rewarded. They may lack PSV’s ability to weave golden points out of the most abject of performances, but have looked ever more focused in recent weeks.
And so the showdown between the two title contenders went in the direction all evidence suggested it would. PSV had the majority of the opening play, and would have scored if they had any kind of forward available to them. Marcus Berg was once compared to the Henrik Larsson of the late 90s, but again performed more like the Stieg Larsson of, well, now.
Twente should have had a penalty when Jeremain Lens shovelled away a de Yong header with his hand, but were given their just rewards on the hour mark, when the returning Bryan Ruiz was pulled down by Marcelo, and Janssen scored his first of the game. The home side could have scored significantly more, as Denny Landzaat hit the post and Peter Wisgerhof headed over.
Then came Janssen’s moment: picking up a loose ball from a poor PSV free kick, he surged three quarters of the pitch, leaving defenders trailing, and lobbed the ball over the not inconsiderable frame of Andreas Isaksson. It was a goal straight from the highlight reel of a computer game. The title is now in Twente’s hands.
PSV’s loss also gives Ajax an outside chance of taking the title, given they have to play Twente on the final day of the campaign. Putting aside a turbulent week off the pitch, the Amsterdam club made short work of a very good Heracles side and winning 3-0. The opener was equally comical and unfortunate, as Heracles goalkeeper Remko Pasveer dropped a Sulejmani free kick onto the head of Oleguer and into the net. The Spanish defender has never really convinced the Amsterdam faithful of his value, but perhaps it was fitting that a Catalonian should score the first goal of the new Cruyff era.
Siem de Jong doubled the home side’s advantage, but there was some controversy as Everton was ruled offside as he looked to have pulled a goal back for the visitors. Araz Ozbiliz made sure of the victory with his first goal for Ajax, turning in debutant Nicolai Boilesen’s cross.
AZ and ADO kept up their recent good form with away victories over Feyenoord and Utrecht. Charlison Benshop scored his first goal for Alkmaar since arriving from RKC to give his side a 1-0 victory, and all but confirm their place in the European playoffs, while ADO defeated Utrecht 3-2. Dmitri Bulykin scored his 18thof the season, and now sits equal with Bjorn Vleminckx at the top of the Eredivisie goalscoring charts. Barring the sort of dramatic collapse that Balazs Dzudzsak would be proud of, ADO will also be in European contention.
There was little change at the bottom, but not such little drama. Willem II have become the anti-Ajax this season; while the Amsterdam club philosophy has always been to score one more than their opponents, no matter how many they manage, Willem II do just the opposite and are in many ways no less entertaining. Having scored four goals against high flying Roda JC, one would have thought they could at least make the final weeks a little more nervous for VVV. Not this side, who conceded five goals in 40 second half minutes of characteristic defensive ineptitude.
In fairness, Roda were not much better, and Morten Skoubo’s second was a piece of improvisational genius, chipping the goalkeeper from around eight yards out. Willem are doomed, but they’ve been good fun, while Roda JC look a comfortable six points clear of Utrecht in the European playoff places.
VVV put up a little more resistance against a Groningen side that have struggled for form in recent weeks. Peter Huistra’s men emerged victorious, 3-2, but only after Robert Cullen and Dario Vujicevic had made them sweat. Groningen should join Roda JC, AZ and ADO in the European playoffs.
Excelsior have won just two games since November, and could have been forgiven for thinking that their 3-2 win over a Heerenveen side in freefall would be enough to close the gap with Vitesse to just four points with five games remaining. The Arnhem side, who themselves had only won a single game more than their relegation rivals in the same period, also found their form by beating NEC 2-1. De Graafschap are not yet safe either, having slipped to a 3-1 defeat at NAC Breda, that leaves them eight points above the playoff places.
Having the points advantage over their rivals should be enough, but don’t tell that to PSV.