The new season in Holland opened with a major shock as 32 times champions Ajax lost 2-1 at lowly Heracles a team from Almelo on the far east side of the country. After taking the lead in the 58th minute through Hakim Ziyech it seemed as if it was then just a matter of how many goals Ajax would wish to score, but Heracles stunned the Amsterdam side by scoring twice, through Paul Gladon and Brandley Kuwas to secure a memorable victory.
Already the pressure is on inexperienced Ajax coach Marcel Keizer, as supporters blame him for their team’s exit from the Champions League in a play-off game against Nice. With his team 2-1 ahead Keizer made some ‘naive substitutions’ and the French side equalised to go through on the away goals rule, so losing Ajax a predicted 50 millions euros from the lucrative group stages.
Ajax woes could worsen as their outstanding central defender Davinson Sanchez seems likely to leave soon for Tottenham who have made a sizeable bid for the Colombian.
The Dutch champions Feyenoord, who waited 18 years before finally winning the title for the 15th time last season, eased to a hard fought but deserved 2-1 victory over FC Twente (Enschede) enjoying more than 70% of the play.
50,000 fanatical supporters crowded into the ‘De Kuip’ and did not have long to wait for the opening goal as newcomer Jean-Paul Boetius skillfully beat several defenders before crossing the ball to the unmarked Nicolai Jorgensen and the Danish international had an easy tap-in from 2 yards.
Feynoord dominated play but were shocked on 36th minute when the Finn Frederik Jensen hit a thunderbolt of a shot from 30 yards which gave stand-in 19 years old goalkeeper Justin Bijlow no chance of saving.
The cumbersome Jorgensen was guilty of some ineffective play and missed several goal-scoring opportunities and Feyenoord may have to look elsewhere for a replacement for the excellent Dirk Kuijt who has retired.
When it seemed as FC Twente might spoil the party and walk away with a point, the impressive Steve Berghuis, signed recently from the English side Watford, rose majestically to head home a free kick from Tonny Vilhena and secure all 3 points for the Rotterdammers and the supporters celebrations continued until the final whistle.
Coach Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was not surprised by FC Twente’s spoiling tactics which earned them a spate of yellow cards, saying: ‘Many teams will come to Rotterdam this season and try to stop us playing our quick-passing and decisive style of play. We are the champions so we will have to get used to it.’
Dutch cup holders Vitesse Arnhem, fresh from winning their first ever major trophy since their inception in 1892 easily turned away the challenge of newly promoted NAC Breda, storming to a 3-0 lead by half time with goals from newcomers Thomas Bruns (2’), Bryan Linssen and Slovakian Tim Matavz (31’) who was signed from Ausberg in Germany.
NAC did silence the Vitesse crowd temporarily when they scored mid-way through the 2nd half through Thierry Ambrose, who is just one of 6 players belonging to Manchester City who are on loan to the Breda side (Vitesse themselves have 5 players on loan from Chelsea).
However the tricky and highly rated 21 year old Milot Rashica sealed all 3 points for Vitesse when he ran through the static NAC defence to slot the ball into the net and make it a convincing 4-1 victory for the home side who many rate as being title challengers this season.
Elsewhere title favourites PSV Eindhoven scored a narrow 3-2 victory over AZ Alkmaar with 22 year old Uruguayan international Gaston Pereiro scoring the 2nd goal.
The northern ‘derby’ game between rivals Groningen and Heerenveen ended 3-3, while FC Zwolle romped to an entertaining 4-2 victory over Roda JC.
Utrecht who always promise so much, but fail to deliver, started the season with a 3-0 easy win over ADO Den Haag.
By Patrick Watts in Rotterdam