It was a bad start to the Eredivisie for PSV Eindhoven as they were held to a goalless draw against a Sparta Rotterdam side who are continuing to impress this season. The hosts could have equalled league leaders Feyenoord’s points tally with a win at the Philips Stadion but were left to rue missed chances.
The match did not provide a lot for either sets of fans as well as for the neutrals although there were two late penalty calls for the hosts which the referee denied. Jordan Teze appeared to have been taken down by Sparta’s Adil Auassar and despite VAR recommending another, Sander van der Eijk kept to his decision. A second penalty appeal late into injury time came when Ibrahima Sangare appeared to have been tripped but Van der Eijk also ignored the appeals and waved play on.
The match showed early signs of what life at the Philips Stadion will be without Cody Gakpo and suffice to say many will not be impressed.
1. Ruud van Nistelrooy lacked creative ideas to break Sparta Rotterdam
Head coach Van Nistelrooy set up his side in a usual 4-3-3 but with no Gakpo, the creativity and goal threat needed to come from somewhere else. From this performance, the former Manchester United striker still needs to find an answer to that dilemma when Noni Madueke and Anwar El Ghazi failed to make an instant impact while there were no answers on the bench either from the head coach.
2. Anwar El Ghazi did not provide a lot to show he can replace Cody Gakpo
El Ghazi came in the summer with the view of adding depth to the role Gakpo played, that was according to Marcel Brands. For the short-term at least, the former Aston Villa player will be Gakpo’s replacement and despite showing a number of glimpses that he could do the job, there is nothing concrete to suggest it will happen immediately. He will be frustrated a lot of PSV’s approach in play came from the right rather than on the left but when he was given the chances, he certainly looked threatening. Perhaps Van Nistelrooy should take a look at that.
3. Luuk de Jong failed to impress in front of goal
No Gakpo means no top goal scorer and so they need to find someone to take the chances as PSV continue on in the title race and the first person to look at is captain Luuk de Jong. The striker has a very good record at the club with 117 goals in 219 appearances for PSV over two spells – including three in seven this season. But the former Sevilla player failed to make an impression up front despite a couple of decent opportunities.