The 20 year old has been a regular in the team for the past three seasons since making his debut as the youngest ever Feyenoord player, turning in eye catching performances that defied his tender years. Scouts from all over the world were sent to check up on the tricky winger, not least when FIFA named him as one of the forty most promising young players in the world. His pace, trickery and aesthetically pleasing style had drawn comparisons with Rafael Van der Vaart, and all this before he was nineteen years old. His assorted video tributes are well worth tracking down.
As money dried up and experience was not replaced there was a greater burden placed on the ever fruitful youth ranks. Inter Milan bound Luc Castaignos, Leroy Fer, Diego Bisewar, Kelvin Leerdam and Wijnaldum were expected to take more and more responsibility for the direction of the club. This season the gross inexperience has been ruthlessly exposed, as Feyenoord have faced the very realistic prospect of relegation. Wijnaldum’s form has dipped drastically, particularly since he has been switched to his more favoured central, playmaking role role.
If Wijnaldum and Feyenoord share some sort of Elliot/ET relationship, Sunday’s game against Groningen was their metaphorical fly-by of the moon. Groningen have spent the majority of the season bothering the title contenders, but were dismantled 5-1 by Feyenoord with Wijnaldum scoring four. Controversially restored to the centre of the park following a performance at ADO in which he could only be found with a PKE Meter, Wijnaldum was everywhere, as Feyenoord delivered the emphatic victory they have threatened for some time.
Wijnaldum’s first was a simple tap in following defensive hesitation. His second was placed precisely in the top corner from the edge of the box, before two penalties and a Ron Vlaar drive gave Mario Been’s side their biggest victory since May last year. There was some of the familiar defensive comedy/tragedy from the home side – Nicklas Pedersen’s consolation couldn’t have been more so if it had been scripted by Shakespeare – but for the first time in months De club van Zuid look like they are free of fear.
Feyenoord are not the only troubled squad who appear to have found some hope at the right time. Willem II cannot decide if they want to muster some fight for the remainder of the season or not, but it has been very entertaining watching them make their minds up. A quite, quite ridiculous 4-3 victory over Heerenveen – just their second of the season – saw the hosts come from 2-0 and 3-2 down to clinch victory in the final minute. Maceo Rigters winner was greeted with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for cup victories, but then again, Willem II have won the Eredivisie more on more occasions than they have tasted victory this season.
It was unfortunate for the Tilburg club that VVV also picked this weekend to find some form. Japanese under 20, Robert Cullen’s first minute goal against fellow strugglers Excelsior kept the five point gap between Venlo and Willem II, and gave the former a fighting chance of getting out of the relegation playoff places. The result meant that De Graafschap will not be sleeping easily, after a 1-1 draw with Roda JC left them five points clear of safety.
Vitesse have one foot on the relegation trapdoor, having taken a 6-1 beating from Heracles with Willy Overtoom scoring two and setting up one of the six. Horrific goalkeeping from Eloy Room left Mark Looms an open goal to give Heracles a 1-0 lead at half time. Everton cleverly chipped in a second, before Mark-Jan Fledderus’ rocket made it three; Vitesse were being caught on the break every time they pushed forward. Willy Overtoom’s two penalties made the score 5-0 and a Guram Kashia own goal further embarrassed Arnhem. At least Kashia redeemed himself somewhat, with a final minute headed consolation.
Only one of the top nine clubs managed to fashion a victory this weekend. Ajax and PSV played out a disappointing 0-0 draw in Eindhoven; a result which favoured the hosts far more than the guests. It should have suited Twente’s ambitions of returning to the summit of the division with victory against AZ, but Twente continued to look as nervy as they have in recent weeks. Theo Janssen’s own goal did not present the title challengers with the perfect start, but Luuk de Jong’s 87th minute equaliser looked to have at least given them a point. Erik Falkenburg’s winner, in the fourth minute of injury time, proved them wrong.
ADO had not lost since the 5th of December, while NAC Breda’s season has fallen apart since their last victory on the 15th of the same month. All signs seemed to point towards an easy victory for Den Haag. The twist in this tale couldn’t be more telegraphed. Captain Robert Schilder gave NAC a surprise lead, but Wesley Verhoek’s fortunate cross come shot and a Gabor Horvath own goal restored normality.
An exchange of passes that was one part Bagatelle, one part Barcelona allowed Schilder his and NAC’s second of the game, but the momentum was taken from ADO when Christiaan Kum was shown a second yellow card. There was no shortage of fortune in NAC’s winner either, as Ramon Leeuwin’s attempted clearance hit the outstretched leg of Czaber Feher and flew into the net giving Breda an unpredicted win.
There were no prizes for guessing the outcome of Utrecht against NEC. Utreg have drawn each of their last five games, while NEC have taken a single point in eleven of their twenty five matches. A predictably predictable 1-1 draw.