Ajax posted an important win on Sunday against national champion AZ. Ajax defeated their opponents 1-0 in the Amsterdam ArenA. Gregory van der Wiel scored the only goal of the afternoon after about one hour of play.
It wasn’t easy, but in the end, Ajax went home with three important points. “I hope we can take advantage of playing at home “, said Jol before the match. His wish was granted thanks to Gregory van der Wiel’s goal. Just as he had done during their away game victory against AZ (2-4), the defender scored on Sunday against the national champion, for whom European football slipped further away after their loss. Ajax’s win helped them hold their ground against PSV and FC Twente. In fact, thanks to Twente’s 0-0 result against FC Groningen, Martin Jol’s team gained two points against the number 2 team from Enschede.
Ajax and AZ both played with Giro 555 on their shirt, to bring attention to the bank account number for donations for the earthquake victims in Haiti. The special jersey was worn by Kenneth Vermeer, among others. The keeper replaced Maarten Stekelenburg, who became a father on Sunday morning to a healthy boy (Sem). He proved himself to be a worthy substitute, standing out a number of times before the break. In the 38th minute, he reacted sharply when David Mendes da Silva shot on the crossbar, and Ari received the rebound. Vermeer stopped the AZ forward’s attempt to score. Right before the break, the keeper, crowned man of the match, kept Ajax afloat by stopping a free kick from Schaars. “We had a difficult time before the break”, said Jol afterwards. “At some points, we were just lucky.”
On Ajax’s side, it was Luis Suarez who was the most dangerous. Ajax’s captain, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Sunday, and recently extended his contract by one year, had a number of good chances in the first half. Shortly after halftime, the Uruguayan player – seeking his nineteenth competition goal – was threatening a few times, including on a free kick. However, it was AZ who came closest to scoring the opening goal during the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Mounir El Hamdaoui, last season’s top scorer, hit the crossbar, as his teammate Mendes da Silva had done earlier.
This second shot hitting the crossbar seemed to serve as some kind of wake up call for Ajax – or at least, for Gregory van der Wiel. Three minutes afterwards, the Dutch International resolutely looked for an opportunity to attack. During his drive towards the goal, he found a partner in Suarez, with whom he set up a successful combination. Ajax’s right back was beautifully set up, receiving the ball in his stride, and decisively sent it past keeper Romero: 1-0.
With the lead in their pocket, Ajax didn’t let go in the last half hour. Armed with the knowledge that AZ has only taken a point home to Alkmaar twice (in competition play) since the new ArenA opened, Ajax played the rest of the match solidly. The national champion even had to play without coach Dick Advocaat during the last fifteen minutes, since the trainer was sent to the dressing room after a yellow card for Moreno.
Advocaat’s dismissal wasn’t the only paperwork for the referee on Sunday afternoon. He allocated a total of eight yellow cards (of which seven were for AZ). To captain Suarez’s relief (who, just like Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Aissati, is one card away from suspension), he was spared a card, which means that he will be present at next week’s Klassieker against Feyenoord. “We showed a lot of passion today”, said Jol afterwards. “That’s the only way to stay in the race for the top.”