Normally, I consider myself to be a reasonable and rational man. When it comes to football however, I turn into a biased supporter. I just wanted to warn everyone that was expecting an unbiased and fair tale of the events. This won't be such a report.
The match I want to cover in this report is the Jupiler League matchday nine contest between Fortuna Sittard and RBC Roosendaal. The match was played in the Fortuna Stadium in Sittard, my very own concrete church where I go to mass once every two weeks.
Fortuna is my religion, the players are the priests, and the stadium is my church. As the legendary Bill Shankly beautifully phrased it, "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I'm very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."
This match was an exciting one for us, for two very different reasons. The first reason was one with high sentimental value. Two players in the RBC Roosendaal starting lineup wore the yellow-green jersey of Fortuna last season; one of them was our captain.
Goalkeeper Arjan Christianen was sold to RBC Roosendaal at the end of the season and received some nasty comments from our chairman, who claimed our new goalkeeper was twice the man Arjan would ever be.
The other player, our former captain, is Mels van Driel. He is still immensely popular with the fans. He had the balls to speak out against some poor decisions by the board and was subsequently dropped from the team and sold to RBC during the winter break last season. The return of two former players is always a special occasion, especially if both are still popular with the fans.
The second reason has everything to do with an odd rule in the Dutch Jupiler League, the "nacompetie" and "periodekampioen" system. I guess no-one outside of Holland understands this system, and I sometimes wonder if most locals understand the system. I'll attempt to explain the system.
At the end of each season, the champion of the Jupiler League is automatically promoted to the Eredivisie. Eight other clubs enter the earlier mentioned nacompetitie, a promotion/relegation playoff that includes the 16th and 17th-place clubs in the Eredivisie. The following teams qualify for the Nacompetitie:
- The club with the best record in the "first period" of the season (after six rounds).
- The club with the best record in the "second period" of the season (rounds seven-12).
- The club with the best record in the "third period" of the season (rounds 13-18).
- The club with the best record in the "fourth period" of the season (rounds 19-24).
- The club with the best record in the "fifth period" of the season (rounds 25-30).
- The club with the best record in the "sixth period" of the season (rounds 31-36).
- The two remaining spots are filled at the season's end by the highest-placed clubs that have not already earned automatic promotion or qualified for the Nacompetitie.
If the club that wins a period has qualified for the nacompetitie by winning a previous period, its place is filled by the next-best club in that period that has not already qualified. Usually, the clubs that qualify for the nacompetitie turn out to be the second through ninth-placed clubs in the final table.
Clubs in the nacompetitie face each other in a knockout system with the numbers 16 and 17 of the Eredivisie for two places in next season's Eredivisie.
Confused? Don't worry, so are we. Still, the second period had started and so far, we had accumulated four points in two matches, which meant we were doing pretty damn well. A win in our home leg would mean we still had a good chance of winning the period and competing for promotion at the end of the season.
With a healthy dose of tension mounting in and around the stadium, I entered the stadium and found my seating. The crowd was brought into the proper mood by some music. They were playing "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. Quite appropriate in my eyes, as this season was all about survival for us.
The match itself didn't live up to the expectations and the tension beforehand. The first half was a pretty drab affair, unfortunately. It resembled an episode of M*A*S*H, I think the physio's of both teams were more tired at the end of the half than the players on the pitch.
Between all the injury-treatments, Boymans hit the bar with a powerful header and our goalie David Meul made a superb save on an effort by RBC's Pius Ikedia. Ikedia was probably the best player on the pitch that night.
Funny story, Pius Ikedia. Once touted as a great talent from the Ajax academy, the Nigerian winger never really broke through and ended up with a club like RBC. A shame really, as he has the skills to play for a top side.
Pius Ikedia (in the blue shirt) dribbling past Fortuna's Nico Vanek. Fortuna's Taner Taktak is following the outcome of this duel in the back-ground.
With the match being as drab as it was, the crowd had to find a different means to entertain itself. Eventually, we found our new amusement in the form of Fortuna forward Cedric Olondo. The Belgian-Congolese forward is probably the most talented player in our squad.
Unfortunately, he's also the laziest player in our squad. Laziness is not tolerated by our fans. When your team is fighting for survival, slackers are not tolerated, so we booed lack of effort. He was too lazy to chase after through balls (unlike Ruud Boymans), he was too lazy to chase after defenders moving forward, and he was generally useless.
Everyone was glad that Olondo had been replaced by Danny Schreurs after the break. Our general style of play improved a bit; Schreurs was more mobile upfront, which created more space for us.
Upfront, the two strikers generally drop wide to collect the ball and wait for midfielders making runs down the middle, exploiting the space that was created by the strikers dropping wide. With forwards like Schreurs and Boymans, this strategy appeared to work, even though we were unlucky with the finishing last night.
That's pretty much the story of the night. We played better, created more chances but failed to convert them. Angelo Simone nearly gave us the win, but his long range effort clipped the bar.
At the other end, we avoided defeat when the referee ruled out a goal by Sasa Stojanovic, due to him being offside. I may be biased, but I do believe the referee was correct this time.
In the end, a 0-0 draw against the No. 9 of the ranking isn't a bad result, but it doesn't do us much good, seeing as one of our rivals for relegation, FC Dordrecht, won their match 4-0. We still hold a two point lead over them, but a win would've been better. It might even have given us a decent chance for the second period.
To conclude my article, I'm still not sure what to think about this match. Was last night's affair a point won or two points lost?