The steady look from general manager Marcel Brands and a quick fist bump from technical director Earnest Stewart. Where billionaire Robert van der Wallen, chairman of the supervisory board of PSV, can see excited joy after the two goals halfway through the second half, in the grandstand in De Kuip.
A 2-1 win at reigning national champion Feyenoord can unmistakably be seen as an advance on the national title. Fourteen games, fourteen victories, with an equally excellent goal difference of fifty for and six against. Ten points ahead, at the beginning of December, over Feyenoord, their main competitor. That now focuses on second place, Feyenoord coach Arne Slot said afterwards.
Under coach Peter Bosz, who started in Eindhoven last summer, PSV has completely controlled the Dutch top within six months. His appointment, in combination with targeted investments in the transfer period including defender Sergino Dest, midfielder Jerdy Schouten and attackers Hirving Lozano and Noa Lang, means that PSV is currently untouchable in the Eredivisie.
In a crucial week, PSV laid an excellent foundation for the rest of the season: FC Twente-away, Sevilla FC-away, Feyenoord-away – all three won. Qualification for the eighth finals of the Champions League was achieved and with two games to go, they were already assured of first place in the Eredivisie during the winter break. While two important attackers, Lang and Lozano, were missing against Feyenoord due to injuries.
It shows that the selection is qualitatively broad. It is “the best group I have worked with,” Bosz said on Sunday. He talks about a position play in a small space during a training session. “Sometimes you don’t know what you see, pure quality.”
Players who come off the bench often make the difference, Bosz said on Friday. “They can do that every time, no matter who it is.” Against Feyenoord it was Malik Tillman who came in well. And Ismael Saibari – normally not guaranteed a starting spot – was one of the standouts with his dribbling and powerful play in midfield.
Bosz opts for a very offensive style of play against Feyenoord, with controlling midfielder Jerdy Schouten who starts as a central defender at the expense of André Ramalho – normally a permanent fixture. With Schouten’s good passing, he brings extra footballing ability from the back. But he does take a gamble defensively. After all, Schouten is not a defender. Bosz previously also played with this variant in the important qualifying match for the Champions League against Rangers FC – with success.
A risk? No, says Bosz. According to him, that would have been the case if PSV had started the match more defensively. “If you defend against this Feyenoord for ninety minutes, it won’t work out.” That’s why he wanted to take the initiative. “I prefer her [Feyenoord] chasing the ball.”
That works. PSV dominates the midfield in phases. It is ultra-attacking, with often four and sometimes five players deep against Feyenoord’s defense – striker Luuk de Jong in front, with wingers Johan Bakayoko and Yorbe Vertessen and attacking midfielder Guus Til. Grouped together, they constantly exert ‘high’ pressure on Feyenoord’s defense and midfield.
Early on Sunday afternoon, the home team does not get into the familiar rhythm of building up, often mentioned as one of the best parts of Feyenoord. Now there are many questioning looks, difficult solutions are being sought. Midfielder Ramiz Zerrouki regularly turns back with a pass to goalkeeper Justin Bijlow – when he no longer knows, because it is too busy in the axis. Feyenoord is static, there is hardly any depth on the flanks, wingers Calvin Stengs and Luka Ivanusec turn inside a lot.
An aspect in which PSV excels. In addition to that depth, it has power, head power, and cleverness. And rest on the ball, with Schouten. How he briefly checks the ball, shortly before the end, just before his own sixteen-meter area, when Feyenoord is still chasing the equalizer. Bosz, with a wink: “We should sign his brother, because he is also good in midfield.”
After a fairly even first half, PSV strikes hard halfway through the second half. Star Saibari reacts alertly to a through ball from right winger Bakayoko, sneaks away from the back of Gernot Trauner and makes 0-1. Followed three minutes later by the 0-2: a flawless header by defender Olivier Boscagli from a corner kick by Joey Veerman.
Feyenoord comes back to 1-2 thanks to a goal from striker Santiago Giménez ten minutes before the end. And almost equalized in extra time, but midfielder Mats Wieffer shot over from a scrimmage after a corner kick.
The opening goal was preceded by a mistake by Feyenoord defender Lutsharel Geertruida; he loses the ball in a risky spot when he tries to turn away. That moment illustrates the difference in maturity between Feyenoord and PSV.
While PSV looks unperturbed, Feyenoord makes a striking number of personal mistakes in top matches – with two own goals in the Champions League match against Atlético Madrid last Tuesday. It is something that Slot also emphasized in the dressing room on Sunday after the game, according to defender David Hancko: “Stop making mistakes in big games.”
PSV is more stable in that respect. They have only lost once this season, away to Arsenal, 4-0. Three days later they won 4-0 at Almere City. “Then you’re just there again. That is maturity for me,” says Bosz.
It is the mix that makes this PSV so strong, he believes. “Talented players, with boys who have already experienced it all. And guys who do it together. Not the eleven on the field, but the entire selection.” Five years after the last national title, something beautiful is dawning in Eindhoven.