Uncertain to feature as late as a day before the game, Feyenoord striker John Guidetti enjoyed a Klassieker (or 'classic') to remember on Sunday as his team celebrated a rare victory against AFC Ajax in Dutch football's blue-riband fixture.
PSV Eindhoven grabbed the headlines earlier in the weekend as they supplanted AZ Alkmaar at the Eredivisie summit, but attention soon turned to De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam for the latest chapter in the Netherlands' fiercest rivalry. It is a contest Ajax have dominated in recent seasons – their previous defeat dating back to 5 February 2006 – and the omens looked to be on their side again when 19-year-old forward Guidetti was ruled doubtful after suffering a 40C fever all week due to tonsillitis.
Scorer of 11 goals in 12 league outings prior to Sunday's meeting, the Stockholm-born player on loan from Manchester City FC was nonetheless passed fit, though Ajax barely seemed to notice as they took a 1-0 lead through Christian Eriksen after 18 minutes. Guidetti was determined to have his say, however, winning and burying a penalty after half an hour and profiting from an Otman Bakkal pass to put the hosts in front close to the interval.
Bakkal then fired Feyenoord two goals clear shortly after the restart, but Ajax were not finished yet and threatened a comeback of their own when Dmitri Bulykin reduced the deficit ten minutes before the end. That left the final word to Guidetti, and the Swedish Under-21 international completed his treble soon after to seal a 4-2 success and send shockwaves around the ground as fans celebrated with players after the final whistle.
"It really was madness out there," said Feyenoord coach Ronald Koeman, whose brother Erwin had masterminded the club's previous win against Ajax. "
It was beautiful to watch. I'm so happy for Feyenoord as they've waited so long for this. A victory against Ajax is something extraordinary for them."
Koeman has not had things easy at De Kuip, where financial constraints have made Feyenoord largely reliant on developing youth – at 26, captain Ron Vlaar is a relative veteran – while picking up loan players such as Guidetti and Bakkal. Despite that, Sunday's triumph lifted his charges level on points with fourth-placed Ajax, and Koeman is delighted by the impact Guidetti is having on his squad.
"At a young age, he is already phenomenal," said the former Netherlands defender. "John is very strong mentally and all the other players look up to him. He has a lot of self-confidence and he shows why every week. It's great for the team to have a player like him and he was fantastic today."
Substituted to a standing ovation before full time, Guidetti is also a confident performer in front of the camera. Asked by a television reporter if he had been completely fit to start the game, he replied simply that he was "fit enough for a hat-trick", before adding: "I was really sick last week but I rested a lot and am fit now.
"Obviously, this is the sort of thing you dream about.
The fans deserve this victory, that's why we stayed on the pitch afterwards to celebrate with them. I hope they'll remember these three goals for the rest of their lives."
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