Heerenveen qualifies for European playoffs on return to World Cup hero Noppert
Watch the summary of sc Heerenveen – Go Ahead Eagles
Heerenveen qualified last for the playoffs for European soccer on the last matchday. The Frisians were 2-0 too strong for direct competitor Go Ahead Eagles.
That RKC Waalwijk, the third candidate for the ticket to the play-offs, went down 4-0 against the already relegated Cambuur was therefore no longer even relevant.
On Thursday, June 1, Heerenveen hosts FC Twente in the first round of the playoffs for a spot in the preliminary round of the Conference League. Three days later the return is in Enschede. FC Utrecht and Sparta Rotterdam are the other two participants in the season’s tourney.
Heerenveen coach Kees van Wonderen must have been anxiously awaiting the match against his old club Go Ahead Eagles. Because although the Frisians had the best papers for the playoffs on the last match day, things could still go wrong.
In the event of a win, Go Ahead would still be able to pass Heerenveen on goal difference. With a draw, the Frisian hopes for the playoffs would depend on the result twenty kilometers away at Cambuur-RKC Waalwijk.
A windfall for Heerenveen was the comeback of Andries Noppert. The 29-year-old goalkeeper had been under the crossbar with Heerenveen only three times after his successful World Cup with the Dutch national team and was then sidelined with a muscle injury.
With Noppert (like coach Van Wonderen last year with Go Ahead Eagles) under the crossbar, Heerenveen gave up only 16 goals in 17 games, in his absence it was more than double that (38 goals in 20 games).
Heerenveen starts strong
After a solid display of schadenfreude in the stands over the relegation of northern rivals Cambuur and FC Groningen, Heerenveen started energetically in the duel with Go Ahead Eagles.
The Frisians constantly had the ball, but it proved difficult to create out-and-out chances. Shortly before halftime, captain Pawel Bochniewicz did make it 1-0 with a fine header. And ten minutes before time, substitute Ché Nunnely – on a pass from Osame Sahraoui – also made it 2-0.
Milan van Ewijk again played from start to finish, making him the only player not to have missed a single minute this season. That does not (yet) apply to third goalkeeper Jan Bekkema. The 30-year-old goalie replaced Noppert just before time, making his first minutes in professional soccer.
Sydney van Hooijdonk may have dreamed of the top scorer title beforehand, but he remained on 16 season goals.
Noppert back on the pitch, also with Oranje? ‘No commitments for Nations League’
Naturally, Noppert was pleased with his return to action after four months of injury. “I had a goal to still be in action this season. And then to come back in the last game – also an important game and against your old club – and finish with the win and the zero. I don’t think that could be better.”
In just over two weeks, the Netherlands will play the Nations League semifinals against Croatia. Does Noppert hope to be there? “I have very good contact with Patrick Lodewijks, updates given how it went. Now we will see. Certainly no commitments have been made. That wouldn’t be very neat either when you’ve been injured for a very long time.”