Ajax was unable to warm up the crowd in the cold Amsterdam ArenA. The Amsterdam team once again defeated NAC Breda- humiliated 0-8 in the away game- by a score of 3-1. After going down 0-1, Donny van de Beek, David Neres and Hakim Ziyech scored the goals. It was a great afternoon for Noussair Mazraoui, who made his debut.
Prior to Ajax – NAC, there were several other reasons to celebrate. Coach Erik ten Hag had celebrated his birthday on Friday, Max Wöber turned 20 on game day, Joël Veltman had become a father this week and both Lasse Schöne and Siem de Jong were at a milestone in their respective careers. For the Dane, this Ajax – NAC game was his 300th Eredivisie duel, and if De Jong would play, it would be his 200th Eredivisie game. Klaas Jan Huntelaar also had an anniversary, after 135 duels in the First Division, this game was his 165th in the Eredivisie.
Add to that that Ajax had destroyed NAC by 0-8 in the away game, and the fact that PSV had increased its lead to 10 points by winning on Saturday night, and expectations for this game were sky-high.
Throwing caution to the wind
But all of these expectations were met. The team, however, had a shaky start: Veltman made a great pass, which wasn’t properly controlled by Huntelaar. One minute later, the centre forward again failed to do that after a dizzying play by Justin Kluivert on the left. But NAC did strike in the opening minutes. Giovanni Korte was sent in, but stumbled on Andre Onana. Ajax had been duly warned, but still found itself down by a goal. Thierry Ambrose didn’t hesitate in the 6th minute and scored NAC’s first goal of 2018: 0-1.
Ajax gains momentum
After that, Ajax attempted to gain momentum, but their best chance came in the 23rd minute. NAC was unable to clear the ball and Huntelaar was free to take a shot. Keeper Mark Birighitti was lucky that the ball remained underneath him. Two minutes later, it happened. Donny van de Beek was completely free and sent a header against the ropes: 1-1. Ajax put NAC’s back against the wall. Attacks headed towards Birighitti and in the 39th minute, Neres, after an impressive solo, trumped his opponent and found the goals free corner: 2-1.
The second half didn’t bring Ajax much at first. Until Huntelaar, in the 55th minute, shot wide with a subtle chip. The Amsterdam team gave NAC Breda more air that in the first half, and the visitors inhaled thankfully. With a 2-1 score at halftime, the supporters were unable to truly relax.
In the final minutes, Ten Hag attempted to inject new life into the team with 2 substitutions. In the 72nd minute, birthday boy Wöber came in for the anniversary-celebrating Schöne. Five minutes later, Siem de Jong also came onto the field for his 200th Eredivisie duel and Ten Hag also granted Noussair Mazraoui a debut. He watched Ziyech score on a free kick and determine the final score, 3-1.