Ajax breathes new life into title race thanks to Classic win

Ajax breathes new life into title race thanks to Classic win

Ajax concluded an intense football afternoon with a 2-1 win againt Feyenoord.  Goals by Lasse Schöne and David Neres were enough to secure an always amazing Classic win.  The Ajacieds reduced their deficit against the Rotterdam team to three points.

One thing was clear leading up to the Classic: only a win would be enough to keep the race for the title alive.  On one hand, the deficit against Feyenoord needed to be reduced to three points.  On the other hand, distance had to be put between Ajax and PSV.  The Eindhoven team had defeated Sparta on Saturday, and had passed Ajax in the rankings.

Both Ajax and Feyenoord were missing key players for this game in the ArenA, sold out for weeks.  On the home team, Kasper Dolberg and Amin Younes were injured.  The centre forward is suffering from an upper leg injury, and the German left winger was having problems with a knee injury.  Feyenoord had to do without the suspended Tony Vilhena and the injured Terence Kongolo and Eljero Elia.

Squad debut

Peter Bosz chose Bertrand Traoré to replace Dolberg.  Justin Kluivert (left) and David Neres (right) were Ajax’s starting wingers.  The Brazilian made his squad debut in this Classic.  It was a debut to remember, as would be seen later in the afternoon.

Ajax couldn’t have asked for a better start in this 61st Eredivisie edition of Ajax – Feyenoord.  In the first minute, Lasse Schöne carved out a 1-0 lead for his team on a free kick.  The ball landed out of reach for Brad Jones, and went into the Rotterdam goal via the crossbar.

This wasn’t the only setback for the visitors in the opening phase.  As the Amsterdam team experienced a dream start, the visitors had a horrible one.  In the tenth minute, Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jørgensen limped off the field.  The injured Danish club top scorer was replaced by Michiel Kramer.

Ajax continued to build up the pressure and – on the hunt for a second goal – was passionately supported by the crowd in the ArenA.  The Rotterdam team was limited to trying to hold them back.  At the half-hour mark, Andre Onana, celebrating his birthday, kept his team out of danger by making a good save on Jens Toornstra’s free kick.  On the opposite side of the field, Hakim Ziyech and Joël Veltman missed their shots on goal.

Ferocious shot

Ajax relentlessly continued to put pressure on the Feyenoord defense.  Bertrand Traoré could have doubled his team’s lead when he came face to face with Jones, but he didn’t manage to control the shot, which turned out to be a ferocious one that went well over the goal.  One minute later, Ajax got its coveted second goal.  Ziyech kept a good overview when another Ajax attack took place, and he sent a perfect pass to Neres, who had come up.  The right winger took full advantage of a small gap and scored from nearby: 2-0.

Midway through the game, Ajax was on course to amplify its chances to win the title.  After 45 minutes, the final blow was still to come for the dominant team in the ArenA.  In that respect, the break came at the right time.  After a very intense and physical half, Ajax was able to bring in fresh reinforcements to bring this Classic home.

In the second half, Feyenoord seemed to have totally lost the willpower to force a win.  At times, it seemed as though the Rotterdam team had surrendered to Ajax’s supremacy.  Feyenoord gave the impression to have settled for a loss and a lead in the rankings of only three points (with a better goal balance) against their arch enemy.

In the easygoing second half (especially compared to the intense first half), Ajax didn’t give anything away.  Schöne (wide), substitute Abdelhak Nouri (over, via the keeper) and Davinson Sanchez (save by Jones) came close, but not close enough to secure the win.  With a bit more precision in the finish, this Classic would have been won with even more convincing numbers.

Ajax finished the Classic without any problems with substitutes Vaclav Cerny (substitute for Man of the Match Kluivert) and Mateo Cassierra (for Traoré).  The win was never in danger.  Kramer scored the 2-1 goal in extra time, but the goal came too late to turn the tide.  Thus, Ajax concluded this sunny afternoon of football with a critical Classic win.