Ajax will continue to be active on all fronts after the winter break. The current national champion easily qualified for the KNVB Cup quarter finals, where Vitesse will be their opponent. Ajax was too strong for FC Groningen in the Euroborg: 0-3.
Days before the match against FC Groningen, Frank de Boer answered his own question. At the moment that the spectacular cup match between sc Heerenveen and Feyenoord reached a boiling point, De Boer twittered: “Am I looking forward to the winter break? I’m looking forward to the matches against FC Groningen and FC Utrecht.” It wasn’t a show in the same caliber as Heerenveen – Feyenoord, but football fan De Boer had lots to enjoy in Groningen. He liked what he saw.
“We saw a very good Ajax tonight”, said De Boer afterwards. “We put pressure on Groningen for the entire match. That deserves a compliment. This led to fantastic attacks and beautiful goals. With a bit of luck, we could have scored three more.”
Earlier that day, Ajax drew Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Europa League. A draw with potential, was De Boer’s assessment before the cup match in Groningen. A few hours later, Ajax once again went into the draw, this time for the quarter finals of the national cup tournament. De Boer learned of the result of the draw – an away match at Vitesse – in the bus on the way back to Amsterdam.
Joël Veltman’s name was the biggest surprise in Ajax’s line-up. Frank de Boer gave the 20 year old defender the nod over Toby Alderweireld for the FC Groningen cup match. This was due to the fact that De Boer places quite a bit of trust in Veltman, and wanted to see him in action for a whole match. “Joël played very well tonight. That was a confirmation for him and very good for us to know, in case something happens and we need to play him.” Jasper Cillessen also played this cup match, as is customary. The keeper experienced a fairly easy evening with Ajax in the Euroborg. The visitors were clearly in charge on this damp, cold evening far up north.
Siem de Jong scored the first goal midway through the first half. Ajax’s captain’s beautiful hard shot went past Groningen’s keeper, Da Silva. He took his revenge for his missed penalty twelve days ago, when Ajax and Groningen had met in the ArenA for a competition match. The 1-0 lead was well-earned and, considering how the game was going, the score could have been even higher.
Ajax increased its lead even more in the second half. First Christian Eriksen scored a beautiful goal, bringing the score to 0-2. On a pass from fellow Dane Lasse Schöne, he sent a volley over Groningen’s keeper. This was the sort of goal that makes the long trip to Groningen worthwhile, just to see it happen live. Almost 200 Ajax supporters who had made the trip definitely agreed. The long bus ride to Groningen had been more than worth it.
Ten minutes after Eriksen’s goal, the visitors’ stands were once again given reason to cheer. Schöne was once again the architect of the attack which, this time, was pulled off by Derk Boerrigter (pass) and Viktor Fischer (finishing). With a 0-3 score in its pocket, Ajax was able to play out a controlled last half hour.
A nice bonus, considering that an – always challenging – away match against FC Utrecht awaits on Sunday. Should that match end with a positive result, Ajax will head into the holiday season on a high note.
De Boer: “We can’t complain about the first half of the season, although I think we squandered too many points in the competition. But it’s great that we’ll still be active on all fronts in 2013. That’s how it should be with a club like Ajax.”