Narrow win despite many opportunities

Narrow win despite many opportunities

Ajax’s away game on Sunday was unnecessarily tense until the last seconds.  Erik ten Hag’s team had a plethora of opportunities, but since only Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored, the game remained nerve-wrecking until the end.  Thanks to the 0-1 win, Ajax gains 2 points on leader PSV.

Knowing that PSV had surprisingly squandered 2 points on Saturday evening, Ajax’s aim was to reduce the gap against the leader in this 24th round of play.  the Ajacieds started strong against PEC Zwolle, applied a lot of pressure, and thanks to that, created a lot of room.

The only thing missing in the first half was a goal, while there had been several opportunities to score one.  Donny van de Beek shot wide in the 8th minute, and Justin Kluivert’s  shot curved wide 2 minutes later.  In the 12th minute, the Zwolle defense blocked a shot by David Neres.

Well-deserved lead doesn’t materialize
From the 20th minute, PEC was more present in the game, but still didn’t put much pressure on keeper Andre Onana.  Ajax held the best opportunities, but Kluivert (great save by Diederik Boer), Huntelaar (free header after a perfect pass by Joël Veltman), Van de Beek (header into Boer’s hands) and Kluivert (just wide) failed to bring Ajax into the lead they deserved.  In fact, it was a miracle that the teams retired to the lockers with 0-0 at halftime.

In the second half, Lasse Schöne, who wasn’t completely fit, made way for Carel Eiting.  The young midfielder had been on the field for 4 minutes when he brought Van de Beek into a beautiful scoring position.  Van de Beek shot onto the post and Neres sent the rebound over.

Huntelaar scores!
B
ut in the 54th minute, the goal finally materialized.  Neres passed to Huntelaar, who scored his 10th of the season, and his 86th Eredivisie goal. 0-1!  Six minutes later, Ajax seemed poised to bring the game to 0-2, but Kluivert’s flaming shot fizzled out on the crossbar, and in the 66th minute, the left winger came just a few centimeters short of sending the ball into the goal.

With such a narrow lead, the game remained tense.  Zwolle coach and former Ajacied John van ‘Schip brought speed to his team with former Ajacieds Terrel Ondaan and Queensy Menig.  But for PEC, it wasn’t meant to be.

Ajax fails to increase lead
Ajax’s failure to increase its lead ensured that the game was a nail-biter until the end.  In the 85th minute, Huntelaar should have scored the 0-2, but found Sandler in his way.  Ten Hag substituted Neres for Siem de Jong in the final minutes.  In the very last second, he was forced to be vigilant of Boer, who had come up, and made the final attempt of the game, on a corner.  Ajax survived.