Although the final score line would suggest otherwise, PSV had a lack of grip on their opponents. Aided by an out-of-the-blue opening goal by Tim Matavz, they were given the opportunity to sit back and counter, a game much better executed than their pressing style that formed plan A. Vitesse, meanwhile, defended well up till the opening goal, and grew into the game only when chasing PSV’s 2-0 lead.
In terms of formation and first eleven, Fred Rutten is quite consistent. He played the same eleven that disappointingly drew 1-1 at Utrecht last week, starting 18-year old Zakaria Labyad at the right wing, ahead of borderline Dutch international Jeremain Lens. Veteran defender Wilfred Bouma had to do with another start from the bench.
After last week’s disappointing 4-4-2 diamond experiment, that ended with a disappointing 0-1 home result against fierce rivals N.E.C., John van den Brom returned to the 4-3-3 of the first half of the season. Missing African internationals Wilfried Bony and Anthony Annan, he played Marcus Pedersen up front, while the return of captain Guram Kashia meant that set-piece taker Jan-Arie van der Heijden, who filled in at centre-back last week, returned to central midfield.
All eyes were on Vitesse’s bench though. Former PSV striker Jonathan Reis, who suffered a severe knee injury in a PSV shirt just 13 months earlier, is by now a Vitesse player, after his PSV contract ran out and he opted against returning in Eindhoven.
The first half
The game started out with PSV pressing their opponents, aiming, as expected, to control this home game. However, things did not work out quite well for the home side, as Vitesse seemed well organized, while PSV made some crucial errors in their pressing game.
Let’s first see what Vitesse did right in this phase of the game. They kept a very compact center, with a midfield three both close together and close in front of the back line. To combat PSV’s options in possession, they effectively eliminated Strootman’s passing options by applying Stanley Aborah in a strict man-marking role. The Belgian-Ghanaian midfielder is well made for defensive midfield duties, and he frustrated Strootman’s game very well.
Interestingly, this caused Vitesse’s most defensive midfielder by style, to play in the most advanced midfield position. Sort of the ‘advanced defensive midfielder’ in response to Strootman playing as PSV’s deep-lying playmaker.
PSV, meanwhile, aimed to press their opponents, hoping for turnovers in Vitesse’s half, where in PSV’s eyes, most of the game should take place. However, their pressing coincided with repeated fouling, their 20 fouls throughout the game offering Vitesse an outlet of pressure on average every 4.5 minutes. Also, these 20 turnovers granted by fouls, compared weak with Vitesse’s 7. Overall, the process of fouling and free-kicks granted Vitesse 13 possession spells more than PSV had.
The opening goal
The match was quite balanced in terms of goal scoring chances, with PSV having limited options due to Vitesse’s well-executed defensive plans, and Vitesse having trouble to bridge the distance to Isaksson’s goal. Despite this, PSV nicked the opening goal after talented winger Zakarya Labyad, whose contract runs out this summer, moved inside for a moment, picked the ball up in central midfield and made a probing central dribble to fire in an excellent long range shot. Vitesse goal keeper Velthuizen, proud owner of the best saves-to-shots ratio of the Eredivisie, had to give up the rebound, which Matavz neatly slotted home.
The second half
While the cliché sounds that a team is strengthened by an opening goal, the reverse seemed true for this match’ second half. Vitesse played further up the pitch, particularly with their wingers pressing PSV’s full-backs further back. Vitesse gained the upper hand in terms of ball possession, though most of it was at the feet of centre-backs Kashia and Kalas, a talented Chelsea loanee.
The most interesting part of the pitch were the wings. PSV’s full-backs Manolev and Willems displayed a lack of grip on Vitesse wingers Chanturia and Ibarra, but, in contrast, the same PSV full-backs regularly exploited the lack of defensive awareness of Vitesse’s young wingers. In short, with the center kept very compact, practically all opportunities arose through wing play.
With the game being more and more open as Vitesse gradually increased their offensive intentions, both teams were granted more goal scoring opportunities in the second half. A main problem for Vitesse throughout the match was the lack of an effective striker. Marcus Pedersen featured anonymously for the 60 minutes he spent on the pitch, although in the first half his team set out rather defensively and the large gap between himself and the rest of the team made life very difficult for him. He was replaced by Reis at the hour mark, but despite (or because, or unrelated to) all the attention given to his return to Eindhoven, the former PSV did not add anything to Vitesse’s game.
Doing what their team does best, PSV countered to their second goal. A beauty it was though, as Dries Mertens picked the ball up around the half-way line, completed a central dribble and found the upper left hand corner of the goal from outside the box.
Now two goals down, Van den Brom introduced a second striker, with Japanese international Mike Havenaar, son of a Dutch goal keeper who played much of his career in Japan, entered the pitch for centre-back Kashia. Vitesse effectively switched to an offensive 4-4-2 / 4-2-4 formation that overloaded PSV’s mediocre (in defensive terms) full-backs. This brought them their goal, as Renato Ibarra had the better of left-back Willems and crossed for Havenaar to head home.
In the final minutes, PSV increased their lead to 3-1, with Manolev illustrating that he adds to PSV’s game more in offensive than defensive terms. He broke through on the right wing and combined to finish the move himself too.
In the end
The 3-1 score line suggests much more comfort than PSV actually had in this home game. Their pressing intentions during the 0-0 phase of the first thirty minutes were carried out quite sloppy, with repeated fouling helping their opponents out. After the opening goal they proved some danger on the counter, but defended too close to their own goal.
Vitesse, meanwhile, gradually improves and improves as a team. Manager Van den Brom seems to have his grip on a squad he joined only this summer, but Vitesse severely missed the presence of Wilfried Bony up front. Playing PSV by eliminating Strootman proved quite effective, and the concept of an ‘advanced defensive midfielder’ worked very well in this regard.