Feyenoord 0 Fortuna Sittard 2 (16th December 2018)
After the cold of Alkmaar the previous evening, and even snow later on, Rotterdam was almost pleasingly mild, albeit blanketed in thick fog. Mind you, with the city centre being ravaged during WWII, and with the rebuild carried out in a style that could make you wonder what Bracknell would look like if it was a city, some might suggest thick fog is the best weather to view the city.
Feyenoord’s De Kuip Stadium is also, from the outside at least, built in a style that cares rather more for functionality than aesthetics, with its exposed steel skeleton giving it something of an industrial feel. A large sign over the turnstiles indicating “Stadion Feyenoord” points towards the railways lines rather than the main road past the ground, on the opposite main stand side. The main stand side instead just has a slightly awkward administrative block, where you feel there ought to be grander entrance for such a famous club. That said, with the floodlights, tall and imposing on pylons located outside the stadium, shining into the foggy gloom on this darkening afternoon, the place certainly looked atmospheric.
Inside it doesn’t disappoint either. It’s one of those grounds that looks more impressive I the flesh than in pictures, larger than you’d imagine, looking bigger than its 51000 capacity. The steep pitched roof, while not covering all of the seats – not an ideal situation in a Dutch winter – gives the ground a classic old feel, even if it’s actually a modern roof, added for the Euros in 2000. The complete lack of any pillars is the obvious benefit to it not being a genuinely historic construction.
Less good, and somewhat baffling, was the fact that every single seat in the upper tier (comfortably under the roof) was absolutely soaking wet. It was as if rain clouds had formed under the roof and drenched every seat, made worse by the common continental habit of going for fixed seats rather than tip-up seats. It meant digging into pockets for bits of paper to wipe the seat dry (or just less sopping wet) before sitting down on damp plastic, with newly created papier-mache at my feet.
Usually tickets for Feyenoord games are hard to come by, due to the membership card restrictions in place for all but the lower-profile games. A game against Fortuna Sittard, way down in the south east, pressed up against the German border, fitted into this low-key category. It no doubt was partly responsible for the subdued atmosphere from the sizable home support. Nobody had told the Fortuna Sittard fans about the low-key nature of this fixture though, as they filled their 1500 seat section with ease, and comfortably outsung the home support all afternoon. The Sittard boys really were “making all the noise” as the much-copied song went, and even the staple “your support is f***ing shit” couldn’t be argued against too strongly.
The home fans did join in before kick off to a Feyenoord-themed version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, plus a club song, but didn’t make a great deal of noise other than that, but given how the game went, that wasn’t surprising.
Feyenoord started like they wanted to get the game wrapped up inside 20 minutes, but this approach led to a degree of hastiness in their play which would be their downfall, as they dominated but without ever looking confident. You always felt that if they got that first goal things would change completely, but they failed to strike a balance between trying to be too precise, and rushing every glimpse of an opening.
Fortuna Sittard, in contrast, played the textbook away performance. Yes, they rode their luck a bit too often, but when they did break they did it with purpose. Shortly after the break the inevitable happened, and another failed Feyenoord attack saw the ball carried rapidly upfield. One cutback later and the ball was in the back of the Feyenoord net.
With the fog rolling in over the roof, a home team that was already playing like they were burdened by their own self-imposed pressure, it just got worse.
Still they went for it, wave after wave of red and white halved shirts surging forward, but time after time a bad ball or bad decision would end the attack.
Five minutes of added time were greeted with an encouraging roar from the home fans. I’d seen a vital injury time goal the previous night, and had Feyenoord equalised, few could have said it wasn’t deserved on the balance of play. But as they pushed men forward, they left gaps at the back. Fortuna Sittard had already wasted one clear chance to put the game to bed, when an attacker selfishly shot – just wide – when a lay-off would have almost certainly been the killer goal. In the 94th minute they got another breakaway though, and this time made no mistake. Plastic cups of beer flew at the celebrating men in yellow and green, saluting their noisy travelling fans two tiers above, possibly dampening their shirts, but certainly not their mood.
Many home fans took this as signal to head for the exits, and with groan and maybe a kick of the seat in front, accept the defeat. “Twee f***ing nul” said one kid of about 10, with his father not concerned about his particular injection of English language into the phrase, as they joined the others making their way down the stairs, disappointed, into the cold night fog.