Ajax has taken over the Eredivisie lead from FC Twente after the game on Saturday night. On the artificial turf at Heracles Almelo, Ajax finally pulled out a win after a tough match: 2-3. Siem de Jong scored two of the three goals. Ajax ended the match with ten men after substitute Ebecilio got a red card in extra time.
The match against Heracles marked the beginning of a tough period for Ajax. Four days before the home game against Olympique Lyon, Ajax had anything but an easy time in the Polman Stadium. Of course, Frank de Boer would have preferred it to be otherwise. “We’re heading into a great week with top matches against Lyon and PSV, but this match against Heracles was probably the most important one, psychologically. This is partly because we played on artificial turf here. That remains a surface that we’re not very used to.”
Jan Vertonghen’s shaking head before halftime told a story of a first half which hadn’t brought Ajax much good. And this, while the team from Amsterdam knew that leader FC Twente had suffered a loss earlier in the evening. The good news from Kerkrade was quickly forgotten when it appeared that Ajax was unable to make a difference on the artificial turf in Almelo. “Things were equal for a while”, said De Boer.
On the last likely summer evening of the year, the third away match of the year seemed to follow a predictable pattern. For the seventh time in a row, Frank de Boer’s team were down while playing away. But, just like the previous times, the home team’s first goal proved not to be fatal for Ajax. However, the first half’s goal against meant that Ajax had to wait until deep into the second half, when Miralem Sulejmani definitely sealed the win.
Willie Overtoom put Heracles ahead after thirty minutes. The forward scored off Marko Veijnovic’s corner kick, which had been pulled back, and blasted the ball straight past keeper Vermeer: 1-0. The goal was the sum of many good opportunities for the home team, as Siem de Jong and Nicolai Boilesen had assisted their keeper twice as the ball had disappeared dangerously into the front of the goal.
Just before half time, Siem de Jong prevented Ajax from entering their locker room one down. As the fourth official raised the extra time digits, De Jong finished a move involving Theo Janssen and Miralem Sulejmani: 1-1. The damage of a disappointing first half had been limited.
It was De Jong who again paved the road for Ajax in the second half. Past the hour of play, the blonde midfielder was alert when Heracles’ goalkeeper let go off the ball. The distance shot had been struck by Derk Boerrigter, and Pasveer allowed a rebound that De Jong smartly finished: 1-2. Sulejmani seemed to seal the victory nine minutes from time, when he used his speed off a good pass by Eriksen. The Serb sped towards the Heracles goal and brought the Ajax lead to two goals with his well-placed shot.
Despite the seemingly secure 1-3 lead, Ajax suffered in the final stretch. Glynor Plet’s 89th minute goal kept the match exciting until the last second. This led to frustration with Frank de Boer. “After we had taken the lead in the second half, we dominated. Everything appeared to be under control. But in the end we sat uncomfortably on the bench”.
In the added time, Ajax also lost a man when Lorenzo Ebecilio was shown the red card. The attacker saw his challenge on Lerin Duarte punished harshly. “That was a blemish on the game. I cannot imagine this warranted a red card. I saw more of these types of fouls tonight, and they were all sanctioned with a yellow card. We unnecessarily brought problems upon ourselves by allowing both the goal against and the red card”.