The goal was to hand Feyenoord its first loss, but in the end, the Ajacieds had to content themselves with a draw in this Classic. Ajax had a difficult time in the first 55 minutes, but a great opening goal by Kasper Dolberg brought back the faith to the Amsterdam team. In the end, shortly before time, the tying goal was scored by Dirk Kuyt. A disappointment, but, considering the match as a whole, a draw was probably the fair outcome of the game.
As always, there was the requisite pre-game tension. The number one and two ranked teams make this a mouth-watering show. For the first time in sixteen years, it was first-placed Feyenoord receiving its rival from Amsterdam. The point difference between the teams was five points in favour of the Rotterdam team. In order to not fall behind too much early in the season, Ajax could not afford a loss.
But frankly, what Ajax wanted was to reduce its rival’s lead to two points. Considering Ajax’s house style and own philosophy, Peter Bosz announced that they were going for the win. The coach had freed up a starting spot for Lasse Schöne. The Dane had missed the midweek game at Celta de Vigo (2-2) due to a foot injury, but had recovered in time to be at kick-off in the south of Rotterdam. Otherwise, Ajax’s line-up was identical to what it had been in Vigo.
But all the good intentions didn’t do Ajax much good in the beginning. Pushed forward by the fanatical home crowd, the Rotterdam team was in the driver’s seat. The big difference was that Feyenoord won their individual duels more frequently, and were more precise with the ball. In the end, Ajax did not create much danger in the first half. Hakim Ziyech sent a long-distance shot over, while an pass from Joël Veltman lacked precision.
In contrast, Feyenoord had three great opportunities. In the twelfth minute, Bilal Başaçıkoğlu was free in front of Onana, but the Cameroonian goalie made the save. Onana didn’t need to take any action at the next opportunity. After about half an hour, Kuyt shot over from the edge of the box. The last attempt was by Eric Botteghin, and it was perhaps the biggest opportunity. The Brazilian was played free with a header, but his volley went high over. The Ajacieds breathed a sigh of relief then, and once again before halftime when a Jens Toornstra shot went just wide of the goal.
The team retreated to the locker rooms with a 0-0 score at halftime, something that Ajax was in no position to complain about. The break seemed to be a perfect moment for Bosz to rally his troups. The first ten minutes didn’t deliver any results, as Feyenoord was much stronger coming out of the starting blocks.
Beautiful opening goal
But in the 55th minute, Dolberg let his powers loose. The Dane did was his colleague from the opposite side, Nicolai Jørgensen, had failed to do: score. Dolberg was freed up by Ziyech, eliminated Jan-Arie van der Heijden, and outwitted goalie Brad Jones with a chip: 0-1. The goal wasn’t reflective of the relative strength of each team on the field, but nobody in the Amsterdam camp complained about that.
Van der Heijden was the only former Ajacied in Feyenoord’s squad. The other one, Kenneth Vermeer, is still out due to an injury. His replacement Jones was almost taken by surprise once again by Dolberg, but this time, the young striker’s shot was fired just wide.
Feyenoord was taken aback by Ajax’s goal. Ajax thus took control of the match, led by the dominant Davinson Sánchez, and was not fazed by Feyenoord coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s opportunistic substitutions. In fact, it seemed that Ajax had more in store. Dolberg and substitute Anwar El Ghazi, among others, came into opportunistic positions.
The match deterirated into a grind, which was natural considering that both teams had played tough matches on Thursday. Ajax seemed poised to take the win, but, shortly before time, the tying goal was scored. Substitute Eljero Elia flung the ball and Kuyt was a fraction more alert than Mitchell Dijks, substituting on the Ajax side. It was the final word, and Ajax heads home with one point.