Sunday, 6 November 2016

Almere City 1 v 0 Achilles ‘29

Friday 4th November 2016
Eerste Divisie (Dutch Second Division)
Yanmar Stadion, Almere
Admission: €10.00
Programme: Free
Attendance:  1,530
Match Rating: 3

For my second and final game of my brief stay in the Netherlands, my options were limited this evening, with most interesting clubs to visit within comfortable range of my base in Amsterdam playing away from home this evening. Jong Ajax had their game moved to the Amsterdam Arena, but for me this option was ruled out, having visited there last night. And so instead I headed for Almere, one of the Netherlands’ new towns, and indeed to visit a club and stadium with a short history.

The Yanmar Stadium is about a half hour walk from Almere Centraal train station, walking alongside convenient cycle and then bus only lanes throughout. The football stadium is part of a large sporting complex situated in the countryside. After passing through a large car park, spectators can purchase tickets at the entrance hut. Once inside, there is a small terrace area with portable refreshment and club merchandise outlets, as well as the entrance to the circular clubhouse, which is on the first floor and offers a good if slightly instructed view of the action. Along both lengths and behind one goal there are similarly shaped, short all-seater stands, with away fans allocated a third of the area behind the goal – which contained nobody this evening. Behind the remaining goal is the most attractive feature, a stand offering hospitality facilities inside and some seating to the front, the rear wall  of which is wooden. There is not much history of character here, unsurprisingly for a club and ground that is only 15 years old and its small support, but there is much to like about the place, which is neat, tidy and with a friendly feel to it. A 3G pitch is in place here. Programmes were available free of charge from the ticket office on entry and was comparable with non-league programmes in England. It was glossy, plenty to read for those who understand Dutch, and the essential statistics.

After a poor start to their season, which saw Almere pick up just four points from their opening six league games, they have been going great guns since, winning their last six league games, and came into this match in fifth place, with 22 points from 12 league games. This match really had the feel of a “home banker” then, as the visitors were rock bottom of the division, with just five points from their opening twelve league games, although two of those points came in the last three games.

On a cool evening which was dry to start with before steady drizzle arrived for the second half, Almere started this match on the front foot, with their forwards showing some good footwork to create opportunities, but Achilles weathered the early storm. Although Achilles always looked slightly the better team during the first half, Achilles did break on occasions but were unconvincing in the final third. Almere's first real chance came on 20 minutes when the ball was played through the defence to Sherjill MacDonald, but his toepoke goalwards was weak and easily saved. On 38 minutes the ball was pulled back for Tom Overtoom to strike a first time shot on the slide which was saved by the keeper’s foot, and a couple of minutes later, Overtoom struck a powerful low shot from outside the area was just palmed wide by the visiting keeper.

The second half continued in much the same vein, although the visitors almost claimed a shock lead in the 56th minute when a chipped cross shot by Kürsad Sürmeli came back off the far post. On 73 minutes, it was Almere’s turn it hit the woodwork, MacDonald crossing the ball high from the right wing to beyond the far post and Souffyan Ahannach hit the ball on the volley into the ground, and the ball bounced into the ground, looped up and came back off the far post. Almere came close to breaking the deadlock a few times before the end of the 90 minutes, but the match looked destined to finish goalless as Achilles tried to hold on for a rare and precious point, sitting back and wasting time as the game neared its conclusion. But two minutes into added on time, a deflected shot was parried by the keeper before being hacked away. But the ball fell to an Almere player, who lumped the ball into the box to Yener Arica, who chested the ball down before laying it back to Overtoom, who drilled a low shot from outside the area just inside the near post, to send the home players and supporters into wild celebrations as the away players sank to the floor in despair. The result was tough on Achilles, who played better than the league position suggested and were cruelly denied a rare, precious point at the death, to fall a further point adrift, now 3, at the foot of the table. But there was no doubt that Almere deserved to win, and they rose to fourth place in the table following this result.

Video highlights of the match can be viewed by clicking here

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