Ajax fights its way to draw

Ajax fights its way to draw

The away match against FC Twente ended with Ajax bringing home a well-earned and well fought-over point. The Amsterdam team battled its way back from a 2-0 deficit. Goals by Viktor Fischer and Nemanja Gudelj (penalty) ensured the visitors of a draw. Ajax squandered its first points in the Eredivisie.

Ajax came in with a good track record prior to this fifth competition game. The first four games ended in an equal number of wins. Moreover, the Amsterdam team hadn’t allowed a single goal against. Especially top scorer Anwar El Ghazi’s six goals have given Ajax a genuine kick start to the 2015-2016 season.

In the Grolsch Veste, Frank de Boer granted brand new Dutch international Jairo Riedewald a spot on defense. Nick Viergever was Ajax’s starting left back. The defenders swapped places in the course of the first half. Mitchell Dijks – Ajax’s steady starting left winger this season – was kept out of the selection as a precaution. The Purmerend native sustained an injury to his groin early in ADO Den Haag game. Dijks has recovered, but with an eye on the upcoming match against Celtic (Thursday, Europa League) no risks were taken with him. In the early days of this season, Dijks has proven himself to be one of the pillars of De Boer’s team.

Twente’s start of the season was a sharp contrast to Ajax’s. The ‘Tukkers’ ended the first four rounds of competition with only one point. This barren start cost coach Alfred Schreuder his job. René Hake was appointed as interim coach. His job was to create a Hake-effect. The interim didn’t take any half measures in his new task. Keeper Joël Drommel, just turned 18, replaced the struggling Nick Marsman. The Under 19s Dutch youth international made his official Eredivisie debut in the Grolsch Veste on Saturday.

Against Ajax, the ‘Tukkers’ seemed free of the curse that has haunted this team and club since last season. Twente has suffered several setbacks both on the field and off (financially). After a long and steadily increasing stream of outrage from supporters, as well as a series of performances unworthy of Twente – the club has lost five of its last eight Eredivisie matches in the Grolsch Veste – fresh hope and excitement were once again palpable in the Twente air.

First goal against of the season

The home club experienced a stable start to this duel, which has been a steady top competition match for the past seasons. It was against Ajax that Twente finally seemed to have regained some of its former glory and pride. The visitors couldn’t make much happen in the first half. After twenty minutes, Ajax had to concede its first goal against of the competition. From a sent-in corner, Twente star Hakim Ziyech served Felipe Gutiérrez with the perfect scoring opportunity. The midfielder, who was left unguarded, shot the ball perfectly past Jasper Cillessen: 1-0.

A header from Joël Veltman was one of the few Ajax threats in the first 45 minutes. Ajax tried to score mainly from a long distance in the first half: very young Twente goalie Drommel wasn’t fazed at all. Ajax was not successful in breaking through the red defense line.

Multi-faceted Ziyech proved to be worth his weight in gold for the ‘Tukkers’ in the first half. Referee Pol van Boekel punished an unfortunate hands incident by Nemanja Gudelj with the harshest sentence: penalty. Ziyech chipped his penalty kick, Panenka-style, past Cillessen. The light-footed virtuoso has indeed been involved in 23 of Twente’s last 24 goals. Ziyech is, clearly, of critical importance to the ‘Tukkers’.

A silver lining

The home team seemed on its way to winning its first three points of the ’15-’16 season. But two Ajax substitutes stood in their way in the last half hour. Fifteen minutes after Ziyech’s goal, substitute Viktor Fischer – the Dane came in for the invisible Arek Milik – sent the ball past Drommel. This 2-1 breathed new life into De Boer’s team. In the messy closing minutes, rife with fouls, Ajax fought its way even with the Twente team. Drommel’s foul on Yaya Sanogo (the loaned out player from Arsenal had come in four minutes earlier for Viergever) cost the home club a penalty. Gudelj cashed in on this opportunity from twelve yards out: 2-2.

Ajax thus closed this duel, which cult for a long time - with a silver lining. Ajax’s hard work and persistence paid off in a small way. After a poor first hour, plus a big deficit, a tie was achieved. On Thursday, Ajax opens the UEFA Europa League group phase with a home game against Celtic. The Amsterdam team will host the match, which starts at 19:00, in the Amsterdam ArenA. In order to start the European campaign well, nothing less than a home win will do.