Ajax lost out to FC Twente in the battle for the Johan Cruijff Plate. The national champion defeated the cup winner 1-0 on Saturday in the Amsterdam ArenA. Match winner Luuk de Jong thus got a leg up on his brother, Ajax player Siem, in the rivalry between the siblings.
Ajax coach Martin Jol granted a spot on the squad to Hyun Jun Suk. The South Korean formed an attacking duo with captain Luis Suarez. In comparison to the mid-week European home duel against PAOK (1-1), Demy de Zeeuw was present for kick off against FC Twente. It was the opposite for Miralem Sulejmani, who started Saturday night’s match on the bench. In the mostly empty, but still cosy, Amsterdam ArenA, ‘Micky’ sat next to Mounir El Hamdaoui. The striker was signed on Friday, and was directly included in the match selection. The former AZ player could only hope to make his debut during this competition for the fifteenth Johan Cruijff Plate. El Hamdaoui isn’t eligible to play during the return match against PAOK on Wednesday. Ajax will need to earn a spot in the Champions League play-offs in Thessaloniki. After the return match, El Hamdaoui will be available to play for his new club. This stride for the former Supercup, planned in between two European Ajax duels, was an interesting intermission. A match where honour was the main stake. Ajax has previously won this traditional showdown between the national champion and cup winner seven times.
Ajax had a rough start for Johan Cruijff Plate XV. Eyong Enoh was forced to leave the match, injured, after only four minutes. Rasmus Lindgren stepped in for the Cameroonian. Three minutes after the substitution, Ajax faced another setback. Twente striker Luuk de Jong brought Twente to a 0-1 lead. Interestingly, Maarten Stekelenburg facilitated the goal with a failed goal kick. Instead of Gregory van der Wiel, De Jong got the ball, resulting in a painful and unnecessary goal against. With his cool headed low shot, Twente’s Luuk also won a point in the filial competition against brother Siem from Ajax.
Twente took advantage of Ajax’s mediocre start. In the first half, Michel Preud’homme’s team kept their opponents from Amsterdam at bay, and far away from keeper Nikolay Mikhaylov. The few times that Ajax came close to their adversary’s goal were mostly a result of Suarez’s work. The Uruguayan saw his attempts either go past or go over the goal. Stekelenburg was busier on the opposite end. After fifteen minutes, international Twente right back Dwight Tiendalli appeared on the right. His attempt landed by Bryan Ruiz, whose shot, via the crossbar, stuttered onto the goal line. Ajax could defend and breathe a sigh of relief.
Three minutes before the end, another setback came for the cup winner, playing for the Johan Cruijff Plate at home. Suarez came down too fast and hard onto Cheikh Tioté’s leg, earning him an immediate red card from referee Kevin Blom. Shortly before the break, Ajax’s captain made his way, humiliated, to the locker room. De Zeeuw took over the captain’s duties from him. Suarez awaits a suspension, which will likely take effect next week. Sunday, four days after the important European return match, Ajax opens the season’s competition with a visit to FC Groningen. Ajax will definitely be without Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian sat out a suspension against Twente, and will be doing the same against Groningen for the same reason. A solid Oleguer took Vertonghen’s place on Saturday.
Suk was substituted after an unlucky first half. Urby Emanulson stepped in for the forward. Siem de Jong moved from midfield to forward. Lefty Emanuelson started on left attack, and saw Christian Eriksen often close in on the right side. Jol couldn’t avoid making the necessary changes to put his most offensive team forward. Rasmus Lindgren was victimized in the process, as the priority was to force an equalizing goal. The Swedish controller at midfield was pulled to the side-lines after fifteen minutes. Sulejmani came in to reinforce the attack. El Hamdaoui thus saw his potential opportunity to make his debut fall away. Forced to do what he needed to do, Jol had gone through his three substitutions. Unfortunately, this more offensive approach wasn’t fruitful for Ajax. It wasn’t enough to give the team a leg up on Twente.
Michel Preud’homme’s official debut as Twente’s coach was thus crowned with a prize. At ten o’clock, Peter Wisgerhof received the Johan Cruijff Plate from Twente club legend Kick van der Val. The first official brotherly competition between Luuk and Siem delivered a win for the youngest of the football siblings. Ajax must move past this disappointment swiftly, as an even more important, and exciting, match awaits in Thessaloniki.
Keep an eye on Ajax TV for a summary of the Johan Cruijff Plate, and the reactions afterwards.