Off the back of a demanding away trip to Zenit, Twente managed an important away win to keep the pace set by league leaders PSV, who Twente are trailing by just one point. While away at Excelsior, ten men Ajax drew 2-2 and PSV had the utmost difficulty in winning 3-2 in the final seconds, Twente put in a decent team effort to beat the relegation candidates.
The starting formations
Twente lined up in a 4-3-3 formation where Luuk de Jong played in his preferred striker position in the absence of the injured Mark Janko. Pacy winger Emir Bajrami replaced the long-term injured Ruiz on the right wing this time, keeping Chadli ion his preferred left side. Manager Preud’homme preferred Swedish Rasmus Bengtsson over Onyewu in central defense and 40 year old goalkeeper Boschker, who has even been called up for the national squad again, replaced the slightly injured Mihaylov.
Excelsior missed prolific right-back Daan Bovenberg due to suspension and played Eekman instead. German goalkeeper Pellatz started his third game in a row, keeping former first choice Paauwe on the bench again. Pastoor lined his team up in a very dynamic 4-4-2 formation.
The first half
It may have been a bit more dynamism in Excelsior’s midfield than what was good for them as Twente never really got into trouble early on. Clasie and Koolwijk were the most central of Excelsior’s midfielders, with Roorda on the right and De Graaf on the left often squeezing inside too. This should have brought a 4v3 advantage for Excelsior in the important department that is central midfield.
But Twente simply worked their way around this. All three of Brama, Janssen and Landzaat played very decent games, keeping possession very well and rarely being dragged out of position by Excelsior’s frequent personal switches. Twente started the game in their familiar cautious manner, playing a slow paced game from the back, looking to eventually cross the ball in from either side in the hope of a moment of De Jong brilliance.
Most times, however, Excelsior had been given all sorts of time to organize their defense, so while the actual number of Twente crosses was quite high, goal scoring chances were quite scarce. The tempo of Twente’s ball circulation was that slow that they always allowed their opponents to organize themselves in defense and crosses swinging into body packed boxes were a frequent sight.
Right-back Rosales frequently appeared in midfield, significantly reducing the potential 4v3 disadvantage in that area. His offensive role was particularly helped by the fact that Excelsior played one advanced central striker, Bergkamp, with Guyon Fernandez in a more dynamic role around him. Fernandez prefers to do so from the right wing, and in turn, Twente’s right-back could venture into midfield at ease.
Near the end of the first half Theo Janssen crowned Twente’s unspectacular, but comfortable control of the game by finishing of a move where for once they moved quickly on a possession turnover in the Excelsior half. Luuk de Jong’s lay-off was the true beauty of this goal, another example of the technical qualities of Twente’s young striker.
The second half
Credits where they belong, manager Pastoor did try to alter the face of the game, but the firm grip that Twente’s excellent midfield three had on the game did never really slip. Excelsior started the second half with a more advanced defensive line and played De Graaf in a more advanced role on the left wing. Despite this offensive intentions, Twente’s ball retention was very good and when out of possession, the title contenders asserted quite effective pressure on their opponents and they did so in a very disciplined team effort fashion.
So despite the playground in midfield shifting some 20 yard back towards Twente’s goal, control of the game was still at the hands of Theo Janssen, Denny Landzaat and Wout Brama in Twente’s midfield.
It was no surprise that Twente increased their lead. Excelsior needed more and more fouls in midfield in order to keep Twente from breaking quickly when they turned over possession. On one of these occasions, centre-back Kaj Ramstein fouled Luuk de Jong in the box and with a penalty and a direct red card given, the game was in fact over. Theo Janssen completed his brace from the penalty spot to crown his, and his fellow midfielder’s, excellent display.
Despite Excelsior making desperate attempt to find and fight their way back into the match, Twente never lost control of their lead. The fact that they could lower their tempo and find some rest quite early in the second half might be welcome in their tired-looking squad.
In the end
A comfortable victory for Twente due to their excellent midfield display, and Rosales who was given the freedom to assist in the potential 4v3 outnumbering. A disciplined team effort in terms of pressure on Excelsior did the job for Twente and Theo Janssen was able to crown his team’s midfield performance with his brace.