Sparta remains in race for European soccer after penalty series and battle of attrition
Watch the summary of Sparta Rotterdam – FC Utrecht
Sparta Rotterdam remains in the race for a ticket to the preliminary round of the Conference League after a nerve-wracking match against FC Utrecht. The Rotterdammers reached the final of the playoffs by beating Utrecht at home in a penalty shootout.
Utrecht had won 1-0 in regular playing time, leveling the score after Sparta’s earlier 2-1 win in Utrecht. An extension and a penalty series followed and goalkeeper Nick Olij was important again. He took two penalties. He also made many saves in the first match.
Steijn after nerve-wracking match: ‘Bizarre uncoupling, this is what you want’
Sparta started the match stronger, hitting the post twice in succession in the opening stages. First, a cross from Younes Namli landed on the post and seconds later a header from Tobias Lauritsen met the same fate.
In the course of the first half, Utrecht got slightly better, but did not get much further than some pinpricks from Sander van de Streek and Tasos Douvikas. The easier playing Sparta did not create any life-sized chances in the first half, but they did become dangerous through Koki Saito.
In the second half, Sparta deservedly took the lead. At least, that is what the Rotterdammers thought. A goal by Vito van Crooij was disallowed because a foul was allegedly committed in the preceding attack, according to video referee Joey Kooij and referee Jochem Kamphuis.
Wear and tear battle in Spangen
After that, the impact of the hot weather was visible. Player after player became tired and had to be substituted.
The unimaginative Utrecht could not really make a fist in the second half either, but still took the lead out of nowhere. Former Spartan Nick Viergever headed in a cross from Can Bozdogan at the far post.
Utrecht was energized by the goal and created another great chance through Taylor Booth. His effort was cleverly turned away by Olij.
There was no more scoring, so the game had to go into extra time. Utrecht became dangerous with a header by Bas Dost and a shot by Can Bozdogan.
Sparta was closest to a goal, however, after a curious action by Twente defender Hidde ter Avest. He seemed to shoot the ball into his own goal out of panic and the whole stadium cheered. However, the ball landed on the wrong side of the side netting for Sparta.
Moments later there could still be cheers at Het Kasteel, after Sparta had taken the penalty kicks better.