Hakim Ziyech’s debut resulted in a 1-0 win for Ajax against Vitesse on Sunday. After a poor first half, the Ajacieds hit their stride in the second half. Nick Viergever, on an assist from Ziyech, gave his team a valuable win at home.
Following the interland period and two weeks without club football, two questions were burning for many Ajacieds. In which position would Peter Bosz play his new acquisition, brand new Ajacied Hakim Ziyech? And how could the player make his mark quickly on his new club? The answer to the first question came just prior to the kick-off of Ajax – Vitesse, when the official line-up was announced. Ziyech started his first official match on right offense. Anwar El Ghazi was a substitute. The answer to the second question came after Ajax’s fifth Eredivisie match of 2016-2017.
On Saturday night, PSV had posted a convincing and problem-free 0-4 win against NEC. Prior to kick-off of their fifth Eredivisie game, the Ajacieds also knew that Feyenoord hadn’t dropped the ball, either. The Rotterdam team had beaten ADO Den Haag earlier on in the day at home in de Kuip: 3-1. In order to avoid going down by even more points against the two leaders, a win against Vitesse was absolutely necessary for Ajax.
Nemanja Gudelj had the first opportunity of the football afternoon. After a beautiful pass by centre forward Bertrand Traoré, the Serbian Ajacied created enough shooting room for himself with his masterful receipt of the ball. Vitesse keeper Eloy Room spectacularly boxed the shot away. Three minutes later, Room also was tested on a well-placed shot by Amin Younes. Gudelj closed the first half hour with a volley that disappeared wide of the goal.
In addition to the position of Ziyech, the midfield line-up was also surprising. Jairo Riedewald was the controlling midfielder. He was flanked by Davy Klaassen and Nemanja Gudelj. With Riedewald’s move, Nick Viergever was assigned a spot; the left-footed defender formed a central duo with Davinson Sanchez.
In the 31st minute, Ajax escaped a deficit. After a sharp counter, Nathan appeared in front of Andre Onana. Fortunately for the Amsterdam tea, the Brazilian Vitesse player’s shot was too soft, and thus an easy save for the Ajax goalie from Cameroon.
One minute later, Ziyech seemed poised to give his captain Davy Klaassen a scoring opportunity. Ziyech’s lightening pass from the right was just a bit too sharp and got lost, untouched, on the side. Maikel van der Werff had an interesting contact with the ball just before halftime. In his own box, the Vitesse defender touched a ball by Younes with his hand. Liesveld let the hands ball go. Vitesse, former club of both Ajax coach Bosz and centre forward Traoré, escaped unscathed from the first half.
After the break, Ajax picked up the pace. Henk Fraser’s team suffered some damage in the second half. Viergever extended the free kick from the left side flawlessly with a header (he was completely uncovered), passing keeper Room: 1-0. In addition to that goal, newcomer Ziyech’s assist gave the match an extra nice touch.
Vitesse’s problems didn’t end there; the guests suffered even more damage. After a second yellow card for defender Arnold Kruiswijk, the Gelderland team was forced to continue with ten men. Ajax was unable to cash in on this numeric advantage. Scoring opportunities for substitute Kasper Dolberg (wide, via Guram Kashia), Klaassen (save by Room) and Younes (over) remained unconverted. The home team thus ended this home game against Vitesse with the same score (1-0) as last season. In January 2015, Riechedly Bazoer scored the only goal of the match after only 25 seconds.
Shortly after six-thirty on Sunday evening, after Liesveld had blown the final whistle, the fans had the answer to their second question. Ziyech had added great value with his assist to Viergever’s winning goal. The ball virtuoso had worked hard and shown his class which he had, until recently, displayed at FC Twente, and that makes him one of the best players in the Eredivisie. Ziyech’s debut in an Ajax jersey was very promising!