Utrecht edge out Groningen

Demouge headed home the winner from a corner in the 60th minute

when some sloppy defending allowed the burly striker, who had come

on five minutes earlier, the simplest of finishes. While the

Groningen defence were at fault for the winner they at least

avoided the type of heavy reverse that have severely jeopardised

their European ambitions in recent weeks. The visitors had conceded

13 goals in a run of three defeats before tonight and, while they

kept matters more respectable, another loss meant they remained

outside the automatic Europa League places. A dire first half was

marked only by Groningen’s lack of ambition, while Utrecht lacked

the guile to unlock their defensive-minded approach. So poor was

the first 45 minutes that the half-time whistle was greeted with

boos from the fans inside the Nieuw Galgewaard. They were, however,

rewarded for their patience soon after the break as the game

finally came to life. Groningen almost stole the lead four minutes

after the resumption, with their first shot, when Leandro Bacuna

side-footed against the crossbar from just inside the area. A

minute later Leon de Kogl saw a snap-shot superbly tipped wide by

Groningen goalkeeper Luciano before Ricky van Wolfswinkel embarked

on a tricky run that was cleared for a corner. The hosts grabbed

their match-winning goal from the ensuing flag-kick when Dries

Mertens swung in a ball that Demouge was able to head home after

the away defence failed to mark him at the edge of the six-yard

box. The hosts could have had a penalty soon after when Andreas

Granqvist recklessly collided with Van Wolfswinkel, before Luciano

made another fine full-stretch save to tip a Kevin Strootman drive

onto the crossbar. Groningen never really threatened an equaliser,

with the wasteful Bacuna sliding their best chance of a leveller

harmlessly wide from a narrow angle.