Ajax has won a tough away match against FC Groningen by 1-2. On the heavy field of the Euroborg, Anwar El Ghazi and Lasse Schöne scored in the second half. Ajax was down to ten men in the last twenty minutes after Mike van der Hoorn’s yellow card. Former Ajacied Danny Hoesen scored the 1-2 goal in extra time.
A setback at the start was Frank de Boer’s absence. The coach was sick and remained behind in the hotel. The honours were taken over by Hennie Spijkerman and Orlando Trustfull moved onto the bench. The technical staff hadn’t reported any changes after the Classic win. That meant that in practice, Joël Veltman once again took the right back position, and central defense consisted of Mike van der Hoorn and Nick Viergever.
In the first half, it was mostly the recently-turned 31 Hedwiges Maduro who – on Valentine’s day, no less – hurt his old flame. He led Van der Hoorn and Davy Klaassen into yellow cards within half an hour, and led the Groningen team well within half an hour. The visitors were devoid of opportunities. Just as it was getting dangerous, the Groningen team dominated the Amsterdam team.
The home team would suffer a setback early on. Bryan Linssen was forced to retire from the game after eleven minutes with an injury to what appeared to be his hamstring. Had they had a bit more precision, Groningen would have been ahead 1-0 at this point, but Alexander Sørloth’s aim wasn’t sharp enough on this cold, damp afternoon. Jesper Drost had a good opportunity after thirty minutes when Cillessen stopped Hateboer’s shot, but set the ball up perfectly for Drost, who had stormed in. His hard shot went wide. Ajax didn’t manage to get on its feet at all. Spijkerman re-iterated this: “We had a very hard time in the first half. We couldn’t apply any pressure out towards the front.”
Reins in hand
In the second half, Groningen was forced to continue without Maduro. Ajax took the game’s reins in hand by applying more pressure. Their playing was much better than it had been in the first half, and by the 59th minute, a 0-1 lead was the natural result of this. Anwar El Ghazi, who had not been dangerous at all until that point, sent the opening goal past former Ajacied Sergio Padt. After Amin Younes failed to score the 0-2 goal two minutes later, the nimble German was hauled down in the 68th minute. Referee Liesveld called a penalty. Captain Davy Klaassen passed to Lasse Schöne, who scored flawlessly: 0-2.
The victory seemed assured. Then, Mike van der Hoorn was sent off with a second yellow card. In terms of organization, Ajax rallied well in the face of this numeric disadvantage. Gudelj moved several meters back and seven minutes later, Ricardo van Rhijn came in for El Ghazi. Ten minutes before the end, Ajax had the chance to lock up the game, but neither Bazoer nor Milik scored. Groningen scored the 1-2 goal via a beautiful free kick by former Ajacied Danny Hoersen, but the score remained at that. “The Spijkerman effect” grinned a pleased Klaassen after the game for Fox Sports’ cameras. “Based on the second half, this is a well-deserved win”, the interim head coach commented afterwards.
Ajax: Cillessen; Veltman, Van der Hoorn, Viergever, Dijks, Bazoer, Klaassen, Gudelj, Schöne (83. Fischer), El Ghazi (77. Van Rhijn), Younes (69. Milik).