Ajax qualified for the third round of the KNVB Cup tournament by defeating vv Noordwijk on Wednesday: 1-3. In lively Noordwijk, coach Frank de Boer welcomed three new faces to his vastly altered squad. Amsterdam’s win was cool and all business.
What could be expected beforehand of the cup meeting with top class team vv Noordwijk? Would it be like the match against WHC (2009, record 1-14 win), or was a more difficult evening ahead, such as the gruelling cup match against Kozakken Boys (2007, after extra time: 1-2)? De combination of a KNVB Cup tournament match and an opponent from amateur football – in Noordwijk’s case, semi-professional football - can be a tricky one. Treacherous even, as proven by Ajax’s last two official cup matches against amateur teams.
The fact is that the national champion can never do anything right, and the opponents have nothing to lose. With top matches against FC Twente and Real Madrid looming in the horizon, Ajax’s aim here was to get the job done without any frills. Otherwise put, their mission for the second round cup match : to avoid any damage and to not waste any precious resources. With a match against last placed team Barendrecht coming up, Robbert de Ruiter’s team has a simpler schedule ahead. De Boer hasn’t written off the injured Miralem Sulejmani for the upcoming top match against the ‘Tukkers’. The next days will tell if the forward will be able to play.
The two time amateur champion’s (1973 and 1980) resistance lasted about 35 minutes in the fully packed – despite extra stands – and lively Duimwetering sport park. Siem de Jong’s 0-1 goal was pure eye-candy. Ajax’s number 10 made good on a fantastic long range shot. The shot landed squarely in the upper corner of Mustafa Amezrine’s goal. The slim chance of a cup upset was thus history for the Noordwijk team.
The Noordwijk team, which had been promoted last season to the top class, were able to contain the damage to that one goal before the break. But Ajax also suffered some damage in the first half. Aras Özbiliz’s re-entry was short lived. After a tick to his ankle, the returning captain had to relinquish his starting spot to Lesley de Sa, making his debut.
The cup match at Duinwetering sport part was the stage for no fewer than three Ajax debuts. In addition to substitutes De Sa and Ricardo van Rijn (in for Toby Alderweireld), keeper Jasper Cillessen made his official debut in this match. De Boer expressed satisfaction at all three debuting players.
With Cillessen in the goal, the Ajax coach made obvious changes in his starting team. Dmitry Bulykin and Jody Lukoki were starting forwards. Midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Thulani Serero, plus defender André Ooijer were on the field at kick off. Another Ajax player (Alderweireld) started in an unusual position. De Boer played the Belgian in the spot he also plays in with the Belgian national team: right defence. Gregory van der Wiel, Theo Janssen, Derk Boerrigter and Christian Eriksen were on the bench.
“You come here with the idea to play many of the guys who don’t get many minutes in the first team”, said Frank de Boer at the press conference. “It’s a shame that that our play was a bit disappointing. It was fine, but I thought we were impatient. We wanted to score too quickly, we wanted to be on the opposite side in a minute. The first half was especially sloppy. We were ‘only’1-0 ahead. In the break, I told them that we needed to play the ball from left to right faster. The match was a done deal in a matter of minutes.”
In Bulykin, Ajax has a centre forward who knows how to play no frills, effective football. The replacement for Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, who stayed at home, coolly scored the deciding goal in the 57th minute. Face to face with Amezrine, the forward lifted the ball with control over Noordwijk’s goalie. Five minutes later, De Sa crowned his debut with a goal. The Ajax A1 player (who played on Saturday’s match at de Toekomst against Heerenveen A1: 6-0) scored made it 0-3. Defender Sijbren Bartlema’s 1-3 was a well-deserved goal of honour. The number 6 team from the Saturday edition of the top class simply fell too short against the Eredivisie’s number 3.
“I want to compliment Noordwijk, because they really wanted to make a game of it”, De Boer looked back. “It wasn’t a shoot-out. I think the 6.000 spectators can be pleased. Although I would have preferred to have a bigger win. But we’ve reached the next round of the cup tournament. Hopefully, we’ll show some more lively football at a later stage.”
The 1-3 win answered the question asked in the beginning. A record victory wasn’t to be in Noordwijk, nor did they struggle to win. Eighteen time cup winner Ajax were all business and qualified for the third round of the cup tournament.