It was so much more than just another sliding tackle. So much more than a block. So much more than a yet another tackle, the likes of which you see so often during a football match. It had everything. Mark van der Maarel saw Dabney dos Santos pop up in front of David Jensen just after the break and with the perfect tackle Utrecht’s captain smothered the striker’s shot to prevent the Overijssel team getting back into the game. Van der Maarel preserved the two-goal margin and saved his team from having to cope with a setback and the opponents from enjoying the adrenaline rush that it was searching for in front of 8,000 supporters in a lively Polman Stadium.
Dessers does it again
Utrecht’s second goal of the evening came just five minutes after the first. And it, too, came from a set piece. Nicolas Gavory set up the ball after Dario van den Buijs had fouled Gyrano Kerk. The Frenchman lofted the free kick to Cyriel Dessers and the striker fired it diagonally into the far corner. Janis Blaswich dived in vain. Dessers scored Utrecht’s 52nd goal of all time in the play-offs for European football. Only FC Groningen have scored more than Utrecht (53 goals before the fixture against Vitesse later in the evening).
Chances for both sides
Heracles Almelo had the most and the best chances in the second half, although Utrecht also had several opportunities to score. Gustafson, Bazoer, Bergström and Görtler were all dangerous for Utrecht, who had a lot to fear from Adrián Dalmau. But Heracles’ Spanish top scorer, good for 19 goals in the league this season, couldn’t get past goalie David Jensen no matter how often he tried.
Return on Tuesday
The return leg of the semi-final will be played this Tuesday. The kick-off in the Galgenwaard is at 18.30. Tickets are available vie the INTERNET and in the FC Utrecht Fanshop, which will also be open on Monday from 10.00 to 17.00.
Heracles Almelo - FC Utrecht 0-2 (0-2)
36. Simon Gustafson (penalty) 0-1
40. Cyriel Dessers 0-2
Yellow cards: Dabney dos Santos, Dario van den Buijs, Mats Knoester (Heracles Almelo), Joris van Overeem, Simon Gustafson (FC Utrecht).
Referee: Siemen Mulder.
Heracles Almelo line-up:
Janis Blaswich; Tim Breukers, Dario van den Buijs, Mats Knoester, Lennart Czyborra; Mohammed Osman, Alexander Merkel (46. Lerin Duarte, 90+1. Bart van Hintum), Jesper Drost (63. Joey Konings); Brandley Kuwas, Adrián Dalmau, Dabney dos Santos.
FC Utrecht line-up:
David Jensen; Sean Klaiber, Timo Letschert, Emil Bergström, Nicolas Gavory; Joris van Overeem (55. Rico Strieder), Riechedly Bazoer, Simon Gustafson; Gyrano Kerk (87. Othmane Boussaid), Cyriel Dessers (75. Lukas Görtler), Sander van de Streek.