In sparkling and eager fashion, Ajax positively surprised the home crowd on Sunday. After losses against PSV and sc Heerenveen and the careful recovery against Willem II, Danny Blind's team outplayed league number two AZ, showing flashes of occasional brilliance underway to a 4-2 victory.,,We needed this result to be able to still look up," Blind said.
Not only the three points were important to that effect. ,,I talk a lot with the guys'', explained Blind who went in training camp before the match specifically for personal talks with his players. ,,But we need confirmation that we are on the right way with good results, or it gets really difficult.''
Blind, his assistants Ruud Krol and Gerard van der Lem and the players received that confirmation from minute one. Ajax, with Julien Escudé back from a suspension as the team's captain because Zdenek Grygera kept Johnny Heitinga on the bench, forced AZ back, with Nigel de Jong in a primary role. Blind let De Jong start as right midfielder and the youngster from Amsterdam repayed his coach's confidence in him.
In the sixth minute, AZ's goalkeper Henk Timmer was able to save on a good header from De Jong, but thirteen minutes later the midfielder came on strong again and this time he left Timmer without a chance as he headed the ball in for 1-0. That more than reflected the flow of the match, as Ajax left AZ without any real chances. Blind, who coached his players through every step, got what he wanted. His men were thinking forward instead of backward and they slowed it down at the right periods.
Until Ajax eased up on AZ after half an hour and the guests had a chance to get back in the game. Maduro helped by losing the ball to Lindenbergh, who found Robin Nelisse and the striker made it 1-1. That was unnecessary and that score did not stay on the board for long. Again it was Nigel de Jong who lifted his team. After a good touch by Steven Pienaar he fired it high in the goal: 2-1. ,,That goal came at the right time, said Blind. ,,Pienaar's move was good and so was Nigel's goal.
The breaking point came at 3-1. Wesley Sneijder curled a free kick behind Henk Timmer. ,,After that, we played it out well, Blind said. The coach sat back and relaxed and saw how Nicolae Mitea broke through on the left and gave the ball to Pienaar who put it in an empty goal: 4-1. Six minutes from the end, he took off Mitea to let him get a big hand from the crowd. ,,I hope it lifted his spirits. I believe in Nicolae's ability and hopefully the applause did him some good.''
The only blemish on Ajax's record this afternoon was the fact that AZ made it 4-2 in the closing minutes. AZ's coach Co Adriaanse agreed: ,,This was a kind result for us, it could have been five or six goals difference. Ajax were very good and we were very poor.''