Milik keeps Ajax on championship course       

Milik keeps Ajax on championship course       

Arek Milik was Ajax’s uncontested match winner in the away match against sc Heerenveen.  The Pole gave his fiftieth Eredivise game some extra shine by scoring two goals, both in the second half.  With a valuable 0-2 win, leader Ajax takes another good step on the road to the championship.

These exciting and deciding weeks have become almost predictable. The day after a win by PSV, Ajax needs to win in order to stay on track for the championship.  On Tuesday, the Eindhoven team beat Vitesse, and the Amsterdam team played on Wednesday.

Quartet

Three days after the home game against FC Utrecht (2-2), which ended in controversy, Frank de Boer had amended his team in several places.  The three man defense from the Amsterdam ArenA game had been turned into a quartet with the addition of Mitchell Dijks.  Thulani Serero and Lasse Schöne got the nod instead of Riechedly Bazoer and Anwar El Ghazi, compared to Sunday.  Finally, Daley Sinkgraven came in on a substitution in the Abe Lenstra Stadium.

Just like the Ajacieds, sc Heerenveen also wanted to avenge itself for its recent loss of points against Excelsior in front of its home crowd.  Actually, the Fries team would have liked nothing more than to deal a blow to the leader.  If for nothing else, it would be to please Geke de Haan – the wife of Foppe, as well as a PSV fan.

Neither Ajax nor Heerenveen conceded much in the first half.  At a killing pace, the attacks on Erwin Mulder and Jasper Cillessen alternated.  Centre forward Arek Milik fired the first shot, but it was blocked.  Mitchell Te Vrede had the first real opportunity of the match nine minutes later.  The former Feyenoord player nodded the ball onto the Amsterdam goal, where Cillessen made a great save.

Opening goal

In the remainder of the first half, it was chiefly Milik (shot just wide) and Davy Klaassen who came close to scoring the liberating first goal.  The blond Ajax captain even popped up free in front of Mulder.  The Fries keeper did what Cillessen had earlier: make a critical save.

The scoreless halftime result was annoying but not alarming.  De Boer made a substitution at halftime.  Anwar El Ghazi was charged with creating more depth on the right side than his predecessor, Schöne.

As the clock ticked, tension built.  Ten minutes after the break, and from a prime position, Milik sent the ball over the Fries goal.  Ajax didn’t need to wait long for another great chance.  Two minutes later, Kenneth Otigba made hands on a shot from Dijks.  Referee Serdar Gözübüyük didn’t hesitate and blew his whistle for a penalty.  Just prior to the one-hour mark, Milik’s shot from twelve meters out was flawless and convincing: 0-1.

Anniversary game

The Ajax striker celebrated his anniversary game once again in the 64th minute.  This time, on a direct pass from Dijks, Milik shot the 0-2 goal past Mulder.  Within a seven minute time-frame, Ajax was suddenly in a much more comfortable position.  From the visitors’ stands, a prolonged ‘champion’ echoed through the quiet Abe Lenstra Stadium.

With Viktor Fischer in for the exhausted Amin Younes and Sinkgraven for Klaassen, the victory was never threatened.  Milik’s defensive plays in the final minutes were illustrative of the Amsterdam team’s work ethic and sense of sacrifice. 

The leader was the right winner in Friesland.  Ajax only failed to add more goals to its already favourable balance.  They will have to do this during the home game against FC Twente and the away game (and season ender) against De Graafschap.  Just two more competition matches stand between Ajax and its 34th national title.

Heerenveen – Ajax 0-2: 57. Milik 0-1 (p), 64. Milik 0-2.

Ajax: Cillessen; Veltman, Van der Hoorn, Viergever, Dijks; Serero, Klaassen (83. Sinkgraven), Gudelj; Schone (46. El Ghazi), Milik, Younes (75. Fischer).