PSV Eindhoven have won the Dutch title for the third season in a row after a 5-1 home success against BV Vitesse on the final day gave them the Eredivisie trophy by the narrowest of margins.
Ronald Koeman's team began the day level on 72 points with AZ Alkmaar and AFC Ajax but with an inferior goal difference to both. However, morning leaders AZ were stunned by a 3-2 defeat at lowly SC Excelsior, who are facing a relegation play-off, while Ajax could only win 2-0 at Willem II. While that win moved Ajax up to +49 in goal difference, PSV's margin of victory moved them on to +50, with the crucial fifth goal coming from captain Phillip Cocu in the 77th minute. Both clubs finish two points above AZ, who will at least have the consolation of competing with Ajax in the four-team play-offs for the country's second UEFA Champions League position, with entry into the third qualifying round the prize.
Cocu, whose goal followed earlier efforts from Alex, Jefferson Farfán (2) and Ibrahim Afellay, announced he would be leaving PSV after the club's 20th championship was secure. "This is a beautiful moment to quit, this was my final match for PSV," the 36-year-old midfielder said. "I already decided a while ago, but to avoid unsettling the team, it was better to announce it after the final match. Until then it was a case of keep the calm around the club. I don’t know if I will continue elsewhere, but certainly not in Holland."
Before last weekend's draw against FC Utrecht dropped them to third in the table, defending champions PSV had held top spot for 151 days and were once eleven points clear. Question marks were raised over the past week about Koeman's position but he has answered any doubters with success when it mattered and booked a return to the UEFA Champions League group stage. The final-day heartbreak will be hard to take for Louis van Gaal's AZ, still the only team other than the big three of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord to be crowned champions since 1965, who had been on the brink of a first title since 1981.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.