Feyenoord 0.v.0 Rovers
The De Kuip Stadium
23rd November 2006: 19:45 BMT
It was another successful night at the De Kuip Stadium for Mark Hughes as Rovers invaded Holland and left with what they went for; although the manner in which it was gained leaves a lot to be desired. A 0-0 draw in Rotterdam against Holland`s form team Feyenoord is a great result and one that sees Rovers through to the next stages of the UEFA Cup.
Mark Hughes made a single change to the side with Zurab Khizanishvili returning in place of the ineligible Stephane Henchoz. This also meant that Andre Ooijer was deemed fit enough to captain the side back on home soil.
On a still night Rovers kicked-off and took the game to their hosts early on. The Feyenoord defence was young and inexperienced and this showed as Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Bentley ghosted into space far too easily, creating half chances for their forwards.
The best chance in the opening ten minutes fell to Shabani Nonda. After a surging run from defence by Captain Fantastic Andre Ooijer the ball was teed up to Benni McCarthy. He dazzled the Feyenoord defence with his quick feet to roll the ball into the path of the charging Nonda. His shot was tipped around the post by Henk Timmer for the first corner of the game.
Rovers continued to demonstrate to their esteemed opponents that they were more than a small town club in Lancashire and should have taken the lead in the 21st minute. An exquisite long ball from the back by Zurab found Bentley unmarked on the right and his first time, placed cross was just asking to be headed home by Nonda. However, as is often the case this season he got himself in a complete mess and ballooned the header high and wide.
This was the kind of let-off the home fans needed to jolt them into vocal action. An eerie silence had accompanied the game up until this point like a nebulous cloud. Frustrated chants began to permeate the air as the home support aimed to lift their lethargic heroes.
Feyenoord then raised their game and took advantage of some suspect Rovers defending to engineer a hat-full of chances. Firstly Angelos Charisteas, squirmed his way through three Rovers players only to be thwarted by the legs of Brad Friedel when a goal looked certain.
Then came the moment of controversy. Stein Huysegems burst into the area and had his heel trod on by Brett Emerton. He collapsed to the floor in a typical continental fashion but no penalty was given. The incident wasn`t too dissimilar from the Tugay challenge against Spurs. However, this the referee decided against a penalty.
Feyenoord rallied as they penned Rovers in until half-time. Andre Ooijer, who had been exceptional so far, excelled when acrobatically blocking Nicky Hofs goal bound effort and Rovers were once again looking nervous at the back.
The half ended all square although both sides will be asking how that was possible when considering some of the chances they fashioned.
The second half began as the first had ended with Feyenoord in the ascendancy and the frustrated chants of the fans still echoing around the 51,000 capacity coliseum.
They could have taken the lead on a couple of occasions as Feyenoord`s rapid attackers slipped into excellent goalscoring positions, only to be thwarted by their own profligacy.
Charisteas failed to remain composed having been put in on goal following another crisp attack from the home side and Huysegems could only shoot straight at Friedel from the edge of the area.
As the half progressed the Rovers players began to sense that this could be their night. Bentley went close after some more wonderful attacking play from the magnanimous McCarthy. Brett Emerton, returning to this ground for the first time in over three years, rifled in a long distance effort that forced Timmer into a routine save to his left.
Emerton was definitely fired up for this game and this almost came at a cost of his position. A number of times he was left wanting further up field as Feyenoord looked to expose the fact that he had additional motives for this game.
Feyenoord`s frenzied attacking began to wilt as the game petered out. Rovers took control of proceedings in defence and in the middle of the park and could have won it at the death when Robbie Savage, who had been largely ineffectual, marauded through the Feyenoord defence to latch onto a McCarthy pass, only to drag his shot narrowly wide.
In parts Rovers were excellent in defence but still look shaky when put under concerted pressure. The fact that they have played teams who cannot finish is perhaps more useful than their own displays. Nevertheless, Rovers are more suited to this level and can now look forward to another three UEFA Cup games…guaranteed.
He is a leader and is playing like one. By far his best display in a Rovers shirt.