NEC strikes in remainder of stalled game, FC Groningen all but relegated

NEC strikes in remainder of stalled game, FC Groningen all but relegated
Jordy Bruijn celebrates the goal against FC Groningen with Magnus Mattson.

NOS Football

NEC has done excellent business in the battle for the playoffs for European soccer. The Nijmegen side won the remainder of the suspended encounter with FC Groningen 1-0. With the loss, relegation from the premier league is near for the Groningers.

Jordy Bruijn decided the game in the closing stages from a penalty kick.

Nijmegen fans in church

Three days ago, the game was stopped after 17 minutes and 27 seconds, after a linesman was hit by a mug of beer. On Tuesday afternoon, the remaining 72 minutes were played in an empty and atmosphere-less Euroborg.

The Nijmegen supporters missing from the away box had gathered in the Nijmegen Stevenskerk.

  • ANP

    A banner in the outbox of the empty Euroborg at the remainder of FC Groningen – NEC.
  • Twitter | @ NECnijmegen

    400 NEC fans watch the remainder of FC Gonringen-NEC at Nijmegen’s Stevenskerk church.

On paper, FC Groningen still has a slim chance of avoiding relegation, but no one in Groningen actually believes in that anymore. But NEC also barely managed to give the saltless encounter some pepper. And that while the Nijmegen side still has every chance of participating in the playoffs for European soccer.

The first big chance was for Groningen after a mistake by Philippe Sandler. The defender was rushed in the build-up and slid the ball into the feet of Tomas Suslov, who forced goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen into a fine save.

At the other end, Lasse Schöne was close to the opening goal, but his fine dropkick disappeared just wide of the post.

An aerial duel between Luciano Valente (FC Groningen) and Maguns Mattson (NEC).

The second half started promisingly with chances for Groningen midfielder Isak Määtta (shot) and NEC defender Souffian El Karouani (header). Then Groningen goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh distinguished himself with a clever floating dive on a shot by Jordy Bruijn.

After that, NEC briefly managed to put the opponent under pressure, but that pressure also quickly disappeared again. Yet NEC still had a couple of good chances: Leeuwenburgh prevented Mattson from heading the ball in from close range with his hand outstretched, and immediately afterwards Groningen was lucky that a sharp cross did not find a Nijmegen foot.

Penalty kick NEC

In the closing stages, Groningen took all the risk anyway: with Elvis Manu and Thom van Bergen, coach Dennis van der Ree brought in two strikers and started playing with three defenders.

Things were wide open at the back for Groningen, and NEC knew what to do: with a long ball, Sandler sent substitute Pedro Marques, who was celebrating his birthday, unhindered towards Leeuwenburgh’s goal. Before the Portuguese could finish, he was run into the back by the sprinting Laros Duarte.

The occasional defender received an immediate red and NEC a penalty kick, which Bruijn carelessly exploited.

Referee Richard Martens grabs the red card after Laros Duarte’s (6) foul on NEC’s Marques.

This keeps NEC in excellent sight of the playoffs. For Groningen, which is eleven points behind number 16 Excelsior with four games to go, relegation against Go Ahead Eagles in the next round of play may already be a certainty.

‘Miracle needed’

“This is a gigantic blow,” Groningen goalkeeper Leeuwenburgh said afterwards. “But we haven’t been relegated yet. We need a miracle and it’s cliché, but as long as we have a chance, we will fight for it.”

Nice fact: thanks to NEC’s win, rival Vitesse can no longer be directly relegated.

Not that matchwinner Bruijn had been concerned with that sounded, “This was not our best match. It was just very strange. But fortunately, after two bus rides here to Groningen, we can go home with three points.”

Kayleigh Williams