By defeating Heracles Almelo by 3-0, Ajax have increased the pressure on league leaders PSV. The team from Eindhoven's lead shrunk to three points after their 1-1 draw against NAC in Breda and Ajax's win in Amsterdam.
Against Heracles, Ajax did exactly what it had to do: win. Goals by Wesley Sneijder and Klaas Jan Huntelaar (2) gave the number two in the league table a deserved victory. No wonder Henk ten Cate arrived at the press conference with a smile on his face. ,,It was a good win”, said the Ajax coach. ,,With this victory, the title race has become close again. The pressure on PSV increases. In the next few weeks we will see how they handle that. The most important thing is that we keep winning our games.”
Ajax were superior against low-ranked Heracles. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was tested maybe a handful of times, whereas his colleague Martin Pieckenhagen had a lot more to do. After only eleven minutes he had to get the ball out of the net when Wesley Sneijder fired a free kick from 20 metres out in the upper left corner.
After the 1-0, Pieckenhagen was still kept busy. Sneijder, Huntelaar and the constantly dangerous Ryan Babel all came close to making it 2-0, but lacked a bit of luck in finishing. Tom de Mul had the best chance right before halftime. From Babel and Roger, who replaced the suspended Gabri, the ball came to Huntelaar. The striker shot it against Pieckenhagen and in the rebound De Mul hit the crossbar. Ajax went into halftime leading 1-0. Yet, Ten Cate was not entirely pleased with the first 45 minutes. ,,We had many chances but our pace was too low. At halftime I told the guys that we did not play like a team that still has a chance to win the championship. I thought we played a lot better in the second half.”
The second half could not have begun better for the home side. After Babel headed it through, the ball came to Huntelaar in the 49th minute. The striker was with his back toward the goal, but he quickly turned away from his defender and struck beautifully: 2-0. Not two minutes later Sneijder broke through in midfield and touched it to Huntelaar, who scored his 19th league goal of the season. Although Ajax had some more chances, it stayed 3-0, something substitutes Kenneth Perez, Edgar Manucharyan and Gregory van der Wiel could not change either.
Right before the end of the match, Jaap Stam had to come off with an injury. ,,He felt some pain when he started to sprint'', said Ten Cate about Stam, who formed the centre of Ajax's defence with John Heitinga against Heracles. ,,We don't exactly know what it is yet, but I think it is nothing too serious.”