Groningen hit seven, Twente held
FC Groningen made a major statement in the chase for Europe as they thrashed basement-dwellers Willem II 7-1 in an eventful match that saw three red cards and a Tim Matavz hat-trick.
Andreas Granqvist and Fredrik Stenman scored seconds apart to make it 2-0 before the half-hour mark, and it was 3-0 at the break after the first goal from Matavz. Granqvist was then shown a straight red for handling the ball inside the area and Andreas Lasnik got a goal back for the visitors from the penalty spot.
Four minutes later, the tables were turned as Arjan Swinkels brought down Matavz in the area, earning a red card and allowing Matavz to score his second, and Groningen's fourth, from the penalty spot.
Gerrit Pressel then collected a needless second booking in the 67th minute to reduce Willem to nine men, and further goals from Matavz, Thomas Enevoldsen and Dusan Tadic completed the rout.
The win leaves Groningen four points from the UEFA Champions League places as second-placed FC Twente were held in a 1-1 draw away to FC Utrecht, passing up the chance to go two points clear at the summit. Teenager Leon de Kogel put Utrecht ahead with a 37th minute goal, but Nacer Chadli equalised, lashing home after a goalmouth scramble five minutes into the second half.
Heracles Almelo pulled clear of the relegation zone at the expense of European hopefuls Roda JC despite playing the final 25 minutes of their 1-0 win with ten men.
Willie Overtoom's 53rd-minute strike proved to be the only goal, but the scoreline did not reflect Heracles' dominance on an encouraging afternoon's work for the strugglers. Tim Breukers was dismissed for two bookable offences in the space of eight minutes in the only dark spot for the hosts.
Feyenoord remain just one place above the drop zone after being held to a 1-1 draw by fellow strugglers Vitesse Arnhem. Luc Castaignos put the Rotterdam giants ahead in the 56th minute with a fine goal, but a foul by Gill Swerts on Marco van Ginkel allowed Ismail Aissati to level from the penalty spot.