Ajax played an exciting match against Willem II. During the first half’s extra time, Eyong Enoh made it 1-0, putting the Amsterdam team on the right path. Ajax turned the win into a triumphant one against the tricolored team, thanks to goals by Miralem Sulejmani, Marko Pantelic, Luis Suarez, as well as Gabri’s thrilling return.
For a painfully long time, Ajax was stumped by the defensive wall set up in front of keeper Michael Aerts. Luis Suarez was – as so often this season – a thorn in his opponent’s side. The Uruguayan put himself in superb position a number of times, but the handful of opportunities in the first half didn’t come to fruition. The opportunities created for the Ajax captain didn’t lead to success either. Attempts on goal just seemed to get blocked - one time by an opponent’s leg, another by the experienced keeper Aerts…
The keeper also had ample opportunity to grow into the game. Aerts was constantly there, stopping the shots that Ajax peppered him with. He had a lot to keep him busy. It was as though the Amsterdam team faced a keeper who seemed to become larger than life after each successful stop.
Aerts even succeeded in stopping a penalty kick from Suarez. Or otherwise said: Ajax couldn’t even make good from twelve yards out. In theory this is the simplest way to score, however the shot ended up once again on the keeper’s fists. The penalty kick was awarded a half hour into the game thanks to a hand ball by Frank Demouge, who was participating in defence.
The teams remained vigilant in the scoreless first half. Especially forward Demouge was dangerous in front of Stekelenburg’s goal. After a rare mistake from Toby Alderweireld, who missed the ball, Demouge got a superb chance to score. The forward had a clear path to “Steek”, but his shot just grazed the outside of the post. Saïd Boutahar – whose shot was flicked over the goal by Stekelenburg – and Bart Biemans – whose shot went just over – were also threatening.
Eyong Enoh delivered the lead for the home team in the closing seconds of extra time in the fist half. The player from Cameroon received the ball thanks to a poor defensive Willem II play, and after a short dribble, landed a laser sharp shot on goal. Ten seconds later, Van Boekel’s whistle signalled the end of the first half. Ajax struck at the right moment and had gained the upper hand.
‘’If the score remains 0-0 for a long time, there is always hope for Ajax’s opponent”, said Martin Jol of his team’s first half. “But before Enoh’s goal, we should have scored one or two more. Willem II performed well when we put the pressure on. They did a good job.”
The crowd cheered for Gabri early in the second half. The Spaniard made his return to the squad after a long time out due to injury. The first cheers for the midfielder were already heard as he warmed up. Imagine the applause if he were to appear in the game…
But before the Spaniard’s return, Miralem Sulejmani came in for Dennis Rommendahl. The Serbian player quickly repaid his coach’s confidence in him. Three minutes after his substitution, Sulejmani received the ball from Demy de Zeeuw’s free kick. De Serb took three strides with the ball and shot on goal with merciless precision. The shot disappeared into the far corner, out of Aerts’s grasping reach.
“Micky’s”goal was well celebrated by his teammates. All nine of his field team mates surrounded him directly after his goal, overwhelming him with enthusiasm. Only his keeper, the solid Stekelenburg, couldn’t cross the field to join the celebration.
Gabri’s comeback earned the tireless player a standing ovation in the ArenA twenty minutes into the second half. The moment that Eyong Enoh retreated to the sidelines, and Gabri came onto the field was genuinely breath taking in the ArenA. With warm applause, the Spaniard was welcomed back, and Enoh was thanked for his performance. This is a luxury that Jol has – he can substitute one solid, infallible midfielder for another. “I’m glad he’s back” said Jol, satisfied with his midfielder’s return. “Gabri brings routine, and he plays the way we need him to. It’s ideal to have a player like Gabri back.”
Marko Pantelic also gave the 49.900 spectators in the ArenA reason to cheer. The Serbian player avoided the off-side trap, received a pass and hammered the ball convincingly past Aerts, who had shrunk to life size once again. Luis Suarez also picked up a goal to his credit. In extra time, the Uruguayan player brought the score to 0-4. From a more difficult position, Suarez struck in cold blood.
“We definitely played a fantastic game in the last half hour” said Jol about the convincing Ajax victory. “We also scored good goals. We’re satisfied with this win.”
The almost fifty thousand Ajax fans in the ArenA went home with a warm feeling after their team’s victory over the tricolored opponents. But two people left the stadium with a sour taste in their mouths. Jan-Arie van der Heiden, who plays for Ajax on a loan out basis, played the entire game with Willem II. Coach Alfons Groenendijk also has a soft spot for Ajax. The ex-Ajax player always wishes the best for Ajax…except when they play against Willem II.