Ajax took another step towards extending its title with a midweek win against RKC. In the Mandemakers Stadium, the match was decided early thanks to goals from Joël Veltman and Davy Klaassen: 0-2. RKC-Ajax thus ended with the same score as last season.
The match in the sold-out Mandemakers Stadium was a make-up game due to the Nuclear Summit (NSS). Both the 18:45 start time and the Wednesday match day were only slightly worthy of a competition match. But Ajax wasn’t fazed. Three days after the crucial win against FC Twente, the leader had no trouble whatsoever with RKC, who are candidates for degradation. With only four more games to go – after this midweek make-up game – an eye was kept on Feyenoord’s results. The Rotterdam team was visiting Heracles Almelo. If Ajax won, and Feyenoord lost points, then Vitesse – Ajax could potentially be the championship match. Because Feyenoord won 1-2 on Almelo’s artificial turf, the duel in the ‘Rhijnstad’ remained an ordinary competition game. Although things may look very different if, on Sunday, Ajax wins and the Rotterdam team gets unlucky.
The wisdom that you should never change a winning team was ignored by Frank de Boer. The midweek make-up match offered opportunities for rotation. Strength and effort was spread among the various selection players. Compared to the home game against FC Twente (3-0 win), Christian Poulsen, Lesly de Sa and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson appeared at kick-off. The Danish player took over central midfield, the position that Daley Blind had had on Sunday’s match. Blind started at left back, taking over Nicolai Boilesen’s position. The Dane is being treated carefully. Two performances in three days are too much for the player, who has only recently been declared fit again. Lerin Duarte played instead of Thulani Serero on the squad, and Sigthórsson was the starting centre forward instead of Bojan. Finally, Lesly de Sa got the nod over Ricardo Kisnha on Wednesday. De Sa played mainly from the right flank in the cozy Mandemakers.
All-rounder Lasse Schöne proved his versatility, attacking from the left. The Dane had the first scoring opportunity after five minutes. Schöne’s venomous low shot disappeared just wide. That was the first of a series of opportunities. The second one resulted in a goal for Ajax. After the first fifteen minutes, Joël Veltman sent a hard header spot-on into the goal, from a Schöne corner. The Amsterdam team thus earned their desired early lead.
The RKC team didn’t get into a rhythm all evening, in front of their own sold-out stadium. Did the choice for Poulsen pay off? The fact is that the Dane, as captain, was an important component in dismantling the Waalwijk team’s play. Powerhouses such as former Ajax player Evander Sno, experienced Sander Duits and Romeo Castelen barely made a mark on the play. This last player had the only real RKC opportunity in the first half. The former international’s roll resulted in only a corner. Erwin Koeman’s team was barely reminiscent of the one which had played earlier on in the season in the ArenA.
RKC pulled a stunt in the first half of the season with a 0-0 tie in Amsterdam. The Brabant team are capable of a lot this season (especially in front of their home crowd), as was clear from their wins against Feyenoord (1-0) and PSV (2-0). The Rooms Katholieke Combinatie has never before succeeded in defeating the three traditional top clubs. And that achievement would remain beyond reach in the 2013-2014 football season as well.
Davy Klaassen brought the sold-out visitors’ stand to its feet after thirty minutes, with the 0-2 goal. The blond midfielder rounded off Sigthórsson’s good preparation work with a spot-on goal. Klaassen thus scored his ninth goal of the season and is now the club’s (co-) top scorer. The international shares this honour with Kolbeinn Sigthórsson. Moreover, the injured Niklas Moisander was watching on Wednesday. The Fin was once again replaced by Stefano Denswil.
With Ajax’s second goal of the night, all tension was released from the match. It its battle against degradation, RKC had posted a critical win against Roda JC last weekend. Former European champion Koeman (member of the golden Orange team from 1988) saw his men fail to match that win. RKC had no bite, especially when Ajax – with a 2-0 lead in its pocket – was full of confidence. The injured trio De Jong, Moisander and Viktor Fischer saw Ajax effortlessly take a step closer to winning the title from the main stand. The top match in the Gelredome against Vitesse is Ajax’s next stop in the hunt for its 33rd national title.
“Here’s a satisfied coach, after a good result”, said Frank de Boer in the press conference in Waalwijk. “We knew that it could be tough against RKC after the 0-0 in the ArenA. The fact that it didn’t get that far is due to the fact that we played a concentrated game. Although we were a bit sloppy just before halftime. I told the players that, too. We had control in the second half, but needed to lock it up. Now we’re looking forward to Vitesse, and to winning three points. That’s hard against that club. After that, we’ll see what happens on the other fields.”