Article by Ben Griffis
ADO Den Haag, who have been in the Eredivisie’s relegation places for 26 of 31 match days this season, shocked Feyenoord 3-2 on May 2nd. This was ADO’s 3rd victory of the season and their first home win. ADO Den Haag were dead last in 18th, 9 points from safety before this match, while Feyenoord sat 5th.
ADO Den Haag’s season has been problematic off the pitch as well as on it this season. The majority shareholder, United Vansen, was reported earlier in the season as having no more interest in supporting the club financially. A deal to sell the club to an American group is hitting roadblocks, and the club said that upcoming salaries can’t be paid for May and June. Further, Dutch Courts recently ruled that the owners pay €2 million after failing to keep up with their payments.
The club released a statement on May 3rd, however, that informed supporters the club had started a legal process to keep the club running. For an initial 4-month period, the club will not be at risk of folding, will keep its KNVB (Dutch League) license, and can pay its players and staff while seeking outside financing. The courts will assign an expert to help the club restructure in order to set them best on a path for long-term financial stability.
Feyenoord is in the midst of a poor season themselves—based upon their high standards and pre-season outlook—and sit in 5th place. They were 6 points behind 2nd place AZ at the start of the match, and 11off leaders Ajax. After this round of matches, Feyenoord sit 10 points off 2nd place, the coveted last Champions League place for Dutch teams. Currently, Feyenoord would have to go through a 4-team playoff (places 5 through 8) after the season to earn a spot in the new Conference League qualification rounds next season.
While both teams are having poor seasons, few people expected a 3-2 victory for ADO Den Haag. Feyenoord, however, have dropped points to several teams near the bottom of the table this season before this match. Draws with Emmen, Twente (twice), Groningen, and Waalwijk were matches Feyenoord fans felt their club should’ve won. In fact, after this match, Feyenoord’s manager Dick Advocaat said he would speak with his players to see if they still wanted him to finish out the season—his last season as a manager before retiring after a long, storied career. He will remain as manager for the final 3 games and possible European playoff games.
The 3-2 win for ADO, as mentioned before, is just their 3rd win and 1st home win of the season. It’s also their second big, unexpected result of the season, after a February 13th 2-2 draw with 2nd-place PSV Eindhoven at home.
The main team news before this match was Feyenoord’s missing attacker and club captain Steven Berghuis. Berghuis was sent off last week, so he was suspended for this match. Striker Robert Boženík started in his place.
ADO Den Haag Buildup and Attack
ADO built up in their 4-3-3 lineup or a 3-4-3. When building up with a back 4, Goossens sat in a channel between the center backs and midfielders El Khayati and de Boer. Fullbacks Kemper and van Ewijk stayed very wide but didn’t push up high. Goossens’ goal was to get the ball to El Khayati, who acted as a playmaker. Sometimes El Khayati would run with the ball, beating a Feyenoord attacker that closed him down.
With a back 3 build up, a midfielder (typically Goossens, sometimes de Boer) dropped next to the center back on the side the ball was on. The back 3 would pass amongst themselves, looking for an opening, usually Kemper/van Ewijk or El Khayati. In the second half, van Ewijk was the major outlet, and he ran at Feyenoord’s opposing left winger or fullback.
ADO used two passing patterns to progress the ball up the pitch. One patter was vertical passes between Feyenoord defenders. Once one midfielder received the ball, they looked for an attacker between Feyenoord players. The midfielder would move to play a fast pass on the ground, surpassing the Feyenoord midfield in the process.
The second passing pattern involved one of the center backs, or back 3, finding a fullback free on the wing. In the first half, this was typically Kemper sitting wide on the halfway line. In the second half, van Ewijk made dangerous runs down the flank, causing Feyenoord a lot of trouble.
In the first 10 minutes, ADO Den Haag attackers gave the ball away cheaply. Poor passes, bad touches, or dwelling on the ball led to Feyenoord taking possession and countering. Thankfully, ADO players improved this aspect of their game as the match went on, but an attempted clearance from Adekanye after a corner—where he had plenty of space to control the ball and strike it properly or run away on the counter—led to Feyenoord’s first goal after just 3 minutes.
ADO looked to play on the counter, with El Khayati typically the one to start a counter. He ran up the pitch or played through balls to a sprinting Besuijen on the wing. In the second half, these balls to Besuijen were troublesome for Feyenoord and together with van Ewijk’s runs, created several chances ADO should have taken advantage of but couldn’t. A couple great chances near the end of the first half came from counters, and ADO Den Haag could have easily been ahead by 2 or 3 goals going into halftime.
ADO Den Haag Defense
ADO Den Haag’s defensive formation varied between a 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1, and a 5-4-1, chiefly depending on how deep Goossens sat. At times, Goossens was in line with the other midfielders and tucked-in wingers. Sometimes he operated between the midfield and defensive lines, and other times he split the center backs. Many times, his position depended on how far away Feyenoord were from the ADO Den Haag box—he was in midfield when Feyenoord were building up, and in the back line when they were in the final third.
Players did not press urgently when Feyenoord were in sustained possession, but closed their man down so that they had less space to operate. Typically, the players avoided engaging Feyenoord until the ball was in the middle third. ADO counter pressed at a high tempo right after they lost the ball, however. This led to the penalty El Khayati scored. Van Ewijk lost the ball while in possession, but he pressed immediately, won the ball back, and ran into the box. Senesi brought him down, and El Khayati converted the penalty.
El Khayati’s second goal also came after winning the ball back in midfield. Shaquille Pinas put pressure on Feyenoord, leading to a loose ball that Besuijen picked up. As he cut inside, he drew defenders to him, leaving El Khayati open for a goal. I will discuss this goal in more detail in Feyenoord’s defense section.
In the second half, ADO started cutting Feyenoord’s passing lanes occasionally. Feyenoord were lost for ideas when Ruud Brood instructed his team to cut lanes. ADO started intercepting their passes and forced Feyenoord’s ball players to pass back to their center backs more frequently.
A major weakness in ADO Den Haag’s defense was their tendency to leave men unmarked for crosses, or not attempt to assert themselves to win the ball when an attacker is near them. This weakness led to both Feyenoord goals. For the first, in the 3rd minute, Kökçü whipped a great cross to the back post and Boženík. Initially marked by both Pinas and Zuiverloon, neither defender even jumped to get on the end of the cross. Both center backs looked unsure of what to do or where the striker was.
Geertruida had a similar chance saved in the 57th minute when Pinas was beaten by Geertruida’s strength. Geertruida put his body into Pinas and moved him out of the way. Pinas did not jump once again, and Geertruida had a free header. Luckily, this shot was straight at Fraisl and he saved it.
Jørgensen’s goal in the 70th minute was a similar issue. Jørgensen sat between Pinas and Kemper as Haps crossed it in. Kemper did not try to come for the ball and help Pinas have a 2-on-1 in the air. And Pinas, once again, did not even jump to win the header. I would argue if Pinas was more assertive for crosses this game, ADO Den Haag stun Feyenoord 3-0, keeping just their 4th clean sheet of the season. ADO defenders were lackadaisical when defending crosses this match and were very lucky Feyenoord’s defense had more faults than their own or else Feyenoord may have come out the victors.
Feyenoord Buildup and Attack
Feyenoord built up in a rough 4-2-3-1 shape, with Fer and Kökçü sitting in front of the defense and Toornstra edging forward as an attacking midfielder. Occasionally, Kökçü and Toornstra would swap roles. One fullback typically stayed wide but deep, while the other pushed up the pitch.
Feyenoord built up with a very low tempo, playing simple passes between the center backs and a deep midfielder (usually Fer) until an option presented itself. They waited for ADO to press as the ball moved upfield or waited for a fullback to come deep. In the second half when ADO cut passing lanes, Feyenoord had a tough time adjusting their gameplay, but players dropping off the front line into space offered a passing lane.
Once the ball left the center backs, they pushed up to form a very high line at or past the halfway line. This allowed Feyenoord to recycle possession while remaining in ADO’s half, but opened them up to dangerous counters, especially in the second half.
From the start, Feyenoord crossed the ball often. They tried to get the ball onto the wing in the final third and then send a whipped cross in with pace. As noted above, Boženík’s goal came from a cross which was poorly defended. The cross was perfectly placed and had pace, which made it easy for Boženík to finish once he got on the end of it. Feyenoord’s second goal also came from a similar cross—a great cross but also poorly defended.
In the beginning of the game, Feyenoord’s players gave the ball away easily during buildup. One instance led to Arweiler’s goal. Fer passed the ball to Toornstra, who let it run by him. Senesi noticed this and rushed towards the ball, but Besuijen read it first and was already running onto the bad pass. Besuijen kicked the ball right into Arweiler’s path, behind a recovering Toornstra and Botteghin. Arweiler put it past Bijlow for the equalizer.
After substituting Pratto on for Fer, Advocaat had his wingers and fullbacks cross the ball even more often, trying to take advantage of ADO Den Haag’s apathy in defending them. While some balls were dangerous, ADO was able to withstand these last few crosses.
Feyenoord defended in a narrow 4-1-4-1, with Fer dropping between the midfield and center backs, much like Goossens on ADO. Feyenoord pressed ADO players urgently, in an effort to restrict their time to think and force them into mistakes. Conversely, this opened up space for ADO wingers and fullbacks to run into, which they did often in the second half.
In the second half, Feyenoord played a higher defensive line than the first half. They upped the pressure intensity for much of the half, but this again only opened them up to poor shapes and open spaces behind their defenders.
Feyenoord’s major weakness was in their defensive transition. While ADO’s first goal came from a bad giveaway and there was not a lot the defenders could do, both of ADO’s next goals came from weak transitions. El Khayati’s penalty came after Besuijen won the ball back and ran into the box. Feyenoord had just won the ball from Besuijen and were not switched on to defend so quickly. Because of that, it forced Senesi to foul Besuijen.
El Khayati’s second goal in the 59th minute also came from a very poor defensive transition. Feyenoord gave the ball away in midfield and Besuijen picked it up in the left side half-space just inside Feyenoord’s defensive third. Besuijen cut inside and ran at the center backs, dragging them inside with him. This opened up lots of space for El Khayati. Two Feyenoord midfielders did not track back to close down El Khayati, even though they could see him in acres of space. El Khayati received the pass from Besuijen, had time to set his feet and beat a last-ditch attempt from a defender before passing it into the net.
Overall, both teams had a few mistakes in possession but key defensive errors that led to multiple goals for the opposition. ADO Den Haag, specifically Shaquille Pinas, could not defend crosses, leading to 2 Feyenoord goals. Feyenoord’s inability to transition to defense properly, leading to one goal and a penalty. A bad giveaway in midfield from Feyenoord also led to a goal.
This result sees ADO Den Haag gain much-needed hope for survival in the Eredivisie. While it would be a tall task based on their results this season, the relegation battle is very much on. This match might just be the spark in motivation ADO Den Haag need to finish the season strong and stay up. With all the uncertainty around their financial situation this season, it would be a gift to supporters to stay in the Eredivisie for the next season. Ruud Brood set his team up very well for success in this match and should take confidence into the next few matches against “weaker” opposition—at least on paper.
This loss adds to Feyenoord’s uncharacteristically poor results against lower-table teams this season. Dick Advocaat’s long footballing career almost ended where it started—ADO Den Haag—and he knew it. After the match he had talks with his players to see if they still wanted him to manage them for the last few games. With their league position almost set, it’s no wonder he will continue on and finish out his final season. However, he and the supporters will be rightfully disappointed, not just with this loss, but with the season.
ADO Den Haag’s stadium, where the match was played.