Sydney van Hooijdonk scores twice as Heerenveen beat Groningen in Eredivisie
Sydney van Hooijdonk was the hero for SC Heerenveen as he scored two goals in the first half to secure a 2-0 victory over FC Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie on Sunday.
The 22-year-old striker, who joined Heerenveen from NAC Breda last summer, netted his ninth and tenth goals of the season in the 27th and 40th minutes at the Hitachi Capital Mobility Stadium in Groningen.
Van Hooijdonk opened the scoring with a powerful header from a corner by Anas Tahiri, and doubled the lead with a clinical finish from a through ball by Pelle van Amersfoort.
Groningen, who are struggling in the relegation zone, failed to create any clear chances and could not find a way past Heerenveen goalkeeper Erwin Mulder, who kept his ninth clean sheet of the campaign.
Heerenveen, who are chasing a European spot, moved up to ninth place in the table with 31 points from 26 games, while Groningen remained 17th with 17 points.
The match was part of the 26th round of the Eredivisie, which also saw Ajax extend their lead at the top with a 4-0 win over Fortuna Sittard, PSV Eindhoven beat Vitesse Arnhem 3-1, and Feyenoord draw 1-1 with Utrecht.
The win for Heerenveen was their sixth in the last seven games, as they climbed to ninth place in the Eredivisie table with 31 points from 26 games. They are only four points behind fourth-placed FC Twente, who have a game in hand.
Groningen, on the other hand, suffered their seventh consecutive defeat and remained 17th with 17 points. They are six points adrift of safety and face a tough battle to avoid relegation to the Eerste Divisie.
The Eredivisie is one of the most competitive and exciting leagues in Europe, with 18 teams vying for the title, European spots and survival. The league features some of the best talents and coaches in the continent, as well as some historic clubs and passionate fans.
The current leaders of the Eredivisie are Feyenoord, who have been unbeaten since the start of the season and have a commanding eight-point lead over second-placed PSV Eindhoven. The Rotterdam club are aiming for their first league title since 2017, under the guidance of former player and manager Arne Slot.
PSV are not giving up on the title race, though, as they have a game in hand and boast the best attack in the league with 81 goals scored. The Eindhoven club have a star-studded squad that includes players like Mario GÃ¶tze, Eran Zahavi, Noni Madueke and Cody Gakpo.
Ajax, the defending champions and record holders with 35 titles, are third with 62 points, three behind PSV. The Amsterdam club have had a disappointing season by their standards, as they have dropped points against lower-ranked teams and suffered a shock exit from the Champions League group stage.
AZ Alkmaar are fourth with 60 points, two behind Ajax. The Alkmaar club have been one of the most consistent and entertaining teams in the league, with players like Myron Boadu, Calvin Stengs and Teun Koopmeiners leading the way.
The race for the European spots is also very tight, as only five points separate fifth-placed Sparta Rotterdam (53 points) and tenth-placed Heerenveen (31 points). The teams that finish fifth to eighth will enter a play-off for a spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
The relegation battle is also heating up, as only four points separate 15th-placed Fortuna Sittard (32 points) and 18th-placed SC Cambuur (16 points). The teams that finish 16th and 17th will enter a play-off with four teams from the Eerste Divisie for two spots in the Eredivisie next season. The team that finishes 18th will be automatically relegated.
The Eredivisie will resume on April 1st after the international break, with some crucial games on the horizon. Some of the highlights include Feyenoord vs PSV on April 9th, Ajax vs AZ on April 23rd and Groningen vs Cambuur on May 7th.