To its own satisfaction, as well as that of the football fans, Sparta is back in the Eredivisie. But the Rotterdam team didn’t experience much satisfaction in its first match back in the highest division of the Netherlands. Sparta was just a ghost in its own stadium against Ajax: 1 -3. On behalf of Ajax, it was Davy Klaassen, Daley Sinkgraven and Mateo Cassierra who scored. The goal against was also scored thanks on an Ajax own goal by Nemanja Gudelj, who unfortunately sent the ball into his own goal from a free kick.
Ajax has two former Sparta players in its selection: Nick Viergever and Anwar El Ghazi. Only the latter was given a starting spot by Peter Bosz in het Kasteel. The coach had changed his team quite a bit after the away game against PAOK. Starting spots were given to El Ghazi, Riechedly Bazoer and Sinkgraven, at the expense of Kasper Dolberg, Heiko Westermann and Viergever. Sinkgraven and El Ghazi were posted to the wings, and Ajax played it its customary 4-3-3 formation.
Ajax opened the score early in the match. El Ghazi served Klaassen – who had been the saviour on Wednesday evening in Thessaloniki – with a taylor-made pass. Klaassen extended the good pass and scored with a sharp header. Ajax wasn’t able to enjoy its lead for very long, as Sparta drew even in the eighth minute. A free kick by Ryan Sanusi was sent in by Gudelj who, in an attempt to clear the ball, unfortunately sent it into his own goal instead.
Both clubs had the honour of scoring special goals within ten minutes of each other. Sparta scored its 1600th competition goal at home in the Eredivisie, and Ajax scored its 5100th competition goal at the highest level.
Clearly, Sparta wasn’t out to win any beauty contests. The Rotterdam team retreated deep into its own zone and relinquished ball possession to Ajax for three-quarters of the time. Ajax’s task to break through the Rotterdam defensive wall wasn’t simple, but the necessary danger was created. Cassierra came closest to scoring, but the Colombian’s shot miraculously cannoned back into the field after touching both posts. In addition to that, the hard-working El Ghazi tested goalie Roy Kortsmit’s fists dangerously several times.
After the break, Ajax tightened the screws even more. The Amsterdam team was rewarded for its hard work in the 57th minute, when a beautiful attack was converted into a goal by Sinkgraven. Gudelj started the offensive combination and, via Klaassen, the ball landed at Cassierra’s feet. The centre forward didn’t manage to get into position to round off, but Sinkgraven did. With a dry, hard low shot, he scored the 1-2 goal. It was Sinkgraven’s first Eredivisie goal for Ajax. He had previously scored for the Ajax Reserves and, coincidentally, against Sparta as well.
Cassierra and Sinkgraven were also involved in Ajax’s third goal. Sinkgraven freed up his South American team mate in front of the Sparta goal, and the forward scored his first goal for the Amsterdam team with the tip of his boot. The match was thus decided. Sparta was done and Ajax didn’t need to do much anymore. In the closing phase, Bosz gave Donny van de Beek and Kasper Dolber some playing time. One mark on the match was that Joël Veltman got a second yellow card after a light foul on Zakaria El Azzouzi, loaned out by Ajax. Westermann was also accorded a few minutes of play as a result.