Dutch champions, Feyenoord, were back to winning ways in the opening day of the Eredivisie but Ajax continued a sorry start to the season
Football is back on in Holland. After a summer full of transfers, the Eredivisie is underway once again and it kicked off with lots of goals in game week-one. A grand total of 37 strikes were scored in the opening weekend, averaging 4.1 goals per game. It’s an early indication of what to expect from this Dutch league this season.
Difficulties for the top-three
A morale-boosting opening day win is what every manager dreams of. It calms the board down and especially the fans, something which Marcel Keizer – manager of Ajax – desperately needed on Saturday after being knocked-out in the Champions League qualification rounds by OGC Nice.
On top of that, Ajax sold some big players this summer and could also lose star centre-back Davinson Sánchez who has already been the subject of a $46 million bid from Tottenham Hotspur.
So without Sánchez who, because of his desire to join Spurs was left out of the squad, Ajax travelled to face Heracles Almelo. Ajax dominated possession and eventually got their goal when playmaker Hakim Ziyech. Despite the chaos surrounding the club, Ajax looked to pick up their first win of the season but in last half an hour of the game Ajax conceded twice and subsequently left Almelo empty-handed.
PSV Eindhoven is in a similar state of chaos to that of Ajax as the club was knocked out in the Europa League qualification rounds to Croatian side NK Osijek. It has put manager Philip Cocu under huge pressure and in the season opener at home to AZ Alkmaar, three points had to be won. After 18 minutes of play, AZ took a deserved lead through winger Dabney dos Santos. The PSV faithful were already thinking about getting out the white handkerchiefs but luckily for Cocu, new signing Hirving Lozano quickly equalized.
After halftime, goals by Gastón Pereiro and Marco van Ginkel gave PSV some breathing space before AZ striker Wout Weghorst scored the 3-2 to make it a tense last ten minutes. PSV withstood the pressure and claimed all three points.
One fierce rival in Ajax had shown early signs of weakness, while PSV showed resilience but by no means dominance. Now it was up to reigning Dutch champions Feyenoord to show what they were up to. Opening the season, the Rotterdammers faced FC Twente in De Kuip.
Thanks to a piece of magical play by fan favorite Jean-Paul Boëtius on his return to the club, Nicolai Jorgensen was found and the Danish No9 opened the scoring for Feyenoord. It seemed to be a beautiful afternoon in Rotterdam but Twente didn’t just come to make up the numbers and equalized 12 minutes after Feyenoord opened their account. Eventually, Feyenoord did take all three points as Steven Berghuis set the final score at 2-1 with a fine header just after the hour mark.
The best of the rest
Outside of the traditional top three, two teams have emerged as the strongest of the remaining teams; Vitesse and FC Utrecht. Vitesse has been a decent side for the last five years but this year could see them make a real step up and provide competition for Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. Signings like Thulani Serero, Bryan Linssen, Luc Castaignos and Tim Matavz have drastically improved the squad. The quality of the side was quite apparent on Saturday when Vitesse started the season with a convincing 4-1 win over NAC Breda.
Just like Vitesse, FC Utrecht started the season strongly with a 3-0 win over ADO Den Haag. The club managed by Erik ten Hag finished in fourth position last season – their best league position since 1981 – and have signed up some new players to build on that success. The arrival of former AC Milan and Ajax player Urby Emanuelsen made some headlines but in Sander van der Streek and Cyriel Dessers, Utrecht have acquired solid Eredivisie players.
The battle against relegation
After match day one, three teams can already be worrying about a possible relegation. Newly promoted NAC Breda, long-time relegation surviving ADO Den Haag and Sparta Rotterdam all suffered heavy defeats. Willem II and Excelsior will most probably be also involved in the battle against the drop. It will be a long and hard season for the five teams.