Ajax posted a narrow win against Excelsior on Saturday evening. A goal by Hakim Ziyech in the 48th minute was sufficient to earn the three points. In the sixtieth minute, Lasse Schöne missed a penalty kick, and Ajax remained at 1-0.
Peter Bosz had to contend with two cancellations a few hours before the game. Nemanja Gudelj was sick, and Daley Sinkgraven’s foot hadn’t recovered enough to play the Excelsior game. That meant that Mitchell Dijks would be the left back on Saturday evening.
In the second minute, he directly made a contribution to the team. The Purmerend native accelerated with his famous long strides towards the back line, and sliced the ball across beautifully. Kasper Dolberg sent a header into the hands of keeper Tom Muyters. Dolberg’s aim wasn’t sharp at that point, as five minutes later he sent hard a shot from Hakim Ziyech’s pass high over the goal.
A phase with very few opportunities followed. Ajax had almost constant possession, but a cleverly played out attack left the home team empty-handed. Sloppiness in the last pass was their downfall. A Lasse Schöne free kick, sent high over the goal, was the only true opportunity. It was only in the 35th minute that something occurred. Ziyech tried to make a play on his own. His shot didn’t faze Muysters in the slightest.
But Excelsior got under Ajax’s skin in the 40th minute. After sloppy play by Davinson Sánchez, Excelsior suddenly was in a dangerous position and a three against three occurred. In the then, Hicham Faik’s shot was an easy stop for Andre Onana. In the first half’s final minutes the keeper was brought into action when Mike van Duinen made a beeline to the goal on the visitors’ behalf.
With a scoreless first half, the Amsterdam ArenA crowd hadn’t been particularly spoiled. Something needed to happen in the second half. Now, the home team played facing the new stands to the south, and perhaps that would serve as even more inspiration for Ajax.
This seemed to be the case. Three minutes into the second half, Ziyech found the goal. Viergever flung the ball over, Dolberg extended with a header, and with an outstanding shot, Ziyech scored, 1-0. Three minutes later, Lasse Schöne almost outdid his fellow midfielder. Unfortunately, the Dane’s beautiful shot hit the outside of the post.
Danilo Pantic showed that Excelsior was not going to give up. In the 53rd minute, he fired a shot into the near corner.
In the 59th minute, Ajax had the chance to double the score. Kasper Dolberg was tripped. Makkelie thought it was outside the box, but his assistant asserted that it was inside. Schöne took the kick. But, where he is normally so sure-footed from twelve yards out, this time Muyters was in his path. Not long afterwards, Amin Younes had the chance to lock up the game after a great attack with Davy Klaassen. But the German dribbler saw his shot end stutter across the line on the wrong side of the post.
While substitutes Abdelhak Nouri and Vaclav Cerny were chomping at the bit on the sidelines, Ziyech sent a free kick over the goal. Their time had come. Cerny came in for Traoré and Nouri for Younes. With twenty minutes to go, Bosz brought in a new impulse. And the young Cerny almost scored. But his attempt was also blocked by the Excelsior keeper. A few moments later, the Czech set up Nouri to score the 2-0. But this time, the dexterous midfielder shot over.
Ajax was on shaky ground in the final minutes. Pantic shot just over in the 85th minute. Ajax applied pressure in the last phase, but the Amsterdam team was unable to add to Ziyech’s goal. Not even in the very last second, when Nouri fired a shot that went just wide. On Thursday, Ajax will need to shift gears when Celta de Vigo visits. Should Ajax win that game, they will qualify for the next round of the Europa League.