Ajax has followed-up on their convincing cup win against Willem II in similar fashion. The Ajacieds defeated PEC Zwolle 5-1 on Saturday, evening. The opponents took an early lead via Wout Brama. Afte that, the Ajacieds, who hit their stride in the second half, caught up, via goals by Davinson Sánchez (2), Kasper Dolberg (2) and Bertrand Traoré. Hakim Ziyech played an important role with his assists.
Expectations were high prior to the game. On Wednesday, Ajax had convincingly beat Willem II. Coach Peter Bosz had re-shuffled his starting eleven significantly for the cup match, and each player definitely lived up to the confidence placed in them. The big question was which eleven players would Bosz start with against PEC. The same trustworthy squad had won four straight games before the Willem II one, although these wins were not always paired with beautiful playing.
Bosz decided to reward Daley Sinkgraven and Lasse Schöne for their good midweek performances. They were, respectively, left back and defending midfielder. Ziyech once again had a spot at the playmaker. For the first matches with Ajax, he had been assigned the right winger position.
Piece of cake
Despite all of these good intentions, Ajax went down early on. After four minutes, Brama fired a shot from the edge of the box: 0-1. Ajax didn’t wait long for their comeback. A Ziyech corner was extended by Davy Klaassen’s header. It was a piece of cake for Sánchez to score with a header.
Ajax had the momentum, and they seemed poised to press forward. But PEC Zwolle was alert and kept up well in the first half. With shots by Queensy Menig and Ted van der Pavert, keeper Andre Onana was tested. Menig is one of two Ajax players who are loaned out to PEC. Django Warmerdam is the other. The lefty joined the Zwolle selection for the first time after recovering from his injury.
PEC kept up well, but couldn’t stop Amin Younes and Klaassen from getting opportunities. After a fluid attack, Younes couldn’t produce more than a shot that rolled in to the hands of Mickey van der Hart, who also has a past with Ajax. The goalie breathed a sigh of relief later when Klaassen couldn’t pull the trigger from a prime position. The captain was playing in his one hundredth competition match for Ajax.
Seven minutes before the break, Ajax scored. On an assist by Ziyech, Sánchez sent a powerful header into the goal: 2-1. The Colombian is the first defender to score two goals since December 2013, when Jairo Riedewald scored two at Roda.
Shooting season open
Ajax headed to the lockers in the lead, and set up the stage for more of the same in the second half. With Ziyech leading the way, Ajax tightened the screws on their opponents. Dolberg took care of goal number three ten minutes after halftime. He remained on course towards the PEC goal and rounded off with the tip of his boot: 3-1. This effectively signaled the opening of the shooting season, as PEC was completely overwhelmed during this phase.
Ajax had the upper hand and took advantage of this to expand on their lead. Traoré scored his first goal in the Amsterdam ArenA: 4-1. The centre forward from Burkina Faso was served by, once again, Ziyech, who had a hand in the first four goals. But the evening’s highlight occurred without the Moroccan player’s input. Dolberg shot the ball hard onto the crossbar and saw his shot rebound back out into the field. Fortunately, goal line technology indicated that the referee that made the right decision by allowing the goal. The ball had clearly passed the goal line.
The points were in the bag and Ajax eased up in the final minutes. This gave Bosz the chance to make three substitutions. Ajax played out the rest of the match and perhaps already started to think of the upcoming meeting with Standard Luik, who will visit the ArenA on Thursday.