BeNe in Europe: Netherlands Assures Sixth Spot, Belgian Dominance Continues

Another solid week of continental action took place for the clubs from the Eredivisie and Jupiler Pro League. The five teams remaining from Netherlands and Belgium played the first legs of their quarterfinals last week. Here is how they got on.

Netherlands: Feyenoord helps assure sixth place

Feyenoord and AZ had contrasting results last week in their opening legs. It was important to get a solid footing in the tie to avoid having too much work on the return legs.

The Rotterdam side hosted Roma in the blockbuster match in the Europa League. Having lost to the Giallorossi in the Europa Conference League final last May, it gave Feyenoord extra motivation ahead of the clash.

In what was a largely even game, a missed penalty by Lorenzo Pellegrini was Roma’s best chance. That came before the halftime whistle, and Roma would be made to regret it. Mats Wieffer scored less than 10 minutes after the restart to give Feyenoord the lead. Arne Slot’s men would not surrender their advantage, holding out for the 1-0 win. That was Feyenoord’s first win against Roma at their fourth attempt.

Later on that Thursday, AZ made the short trip to Brussels to take on Anderlecht. Having won their only two previous meetings, the Alkmaar-based side looked to continue that unbeaten run against the Belgians. Despite outshooting Anderlecht 12-7, it would be the hosts that came out on top 2-0. AZ’s impressive home record in Europe will be put to the test next Thursday as they will need to score at least two goals without reply to stay in the tie.

Feyenoord’s win was important for Netherlands as that won them 0.400 more coefficient points. That takes them to 12.900 points on the season, and 59.300 in the five-year ranking.

The 0.400 points from last week proved to be crucial. Portugal failed to collect any points via Benfica and Sporting, who lost to Inter in the Champions League and Juventus in the Europa League, respectively. As a result, it is now official that Netherlands will finish sixth in the five-year country coefficient ranking. It is a massive achievement for the Dutch, who will have an extra Champions League spot an a total of six European places (minimum) starting in 2024/25.

Belgium: Trio goes unbeaten, potential all-Belgian semifinal a possibility

Belgium continues to have a historic season in Europe. With three clubs still active across the Europa League and Europa Conference League, the chance is there for a Belgian team to go all the way for the first time since 1988.

Kicking off the day was Gent, who faced West Ham in the early Europa Conference League match. The English side went into the match winning all of their previous games in the competition. When they took the lead just before halftime through Danny Ings, Gent had to show their mettle once more. Yet, as they did against Basaksehir in the last round, the hosts would not give in. By the hour mark, the game was level, as Hugo Cuypers finished off a lovely attack to tie the score. It would end 1-1, as Gent heads to London next Thursday aiming to make their first ever European semifinal.

In the Europa League, Union St. Gilloise took on Bundesliga opposition in Bayer Leverkusen. Having lost just once in the UEL this campaign, Union fancied their chances at claiming a second win in Germany this season. They seemed to be on their way to a crucial away win via Victor Boniface. The striker put the guests in front shortly into the second period. They would not hold on though, as Leverkusen’s gem Florian Wirtz found an equalizer eight minutes from time. Like Gent, Union managed to take a 1-1 draw.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, Anderlecht hosted AZ. As things are not going smoothly in the league for the Belgians, a win at home was very important. They were outplayed for most of the first half, yet Anders Dreyer’s cross found Amir Murillo who headed it in to give Paars-Wit the lead. That advantage would double with about 15 minutes left to play. Francis Amuzu picked out Majeed Ashimeru with his cross. The Ghanaian controlled and fired in the second to put Anderlecht in an excellent position to advance. It ended 2-0, as the Dutch side has it all to next Thursday.

Belgium’s historic season from a coefficient standpoint continued as they earned another 0.800 points off of those performances. They stay eighth in the five-year ranking, now on 42.200 points. Their season’s tally now reads 14.200, extending their record. Another 1.800 points is possible if all three teams win on Thursday, further cementing this season as one to remember for Belgian football.

David Parkes

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