On Sunday, Ajax finally won a competition match. After three duels without victory, Ajax finally met success while visiting VVV Venlo: 0-2. Substitute Mido and Miralem Sulejmani decided the match in the last half hour. This win put an end to 341 scoreless competition minutes for Ajax. Aras Özbiliz made his Ajax debut in the second half.
It was time for Ajax to win on Sunday. After competition losses to ADO Den Haag and AZ, and a scoreless tie against PSV, Ajax posted its first, and only, competition win for November in Venlo. Moreover, Ajax finally scored after failing to do so in three matches (ADO, AZ and PSV). This brought Ajax their ‘moment of success’, which Martin Jol hoped would come after the punishing midweek match against Real Madrid. Considering the loss of points suffered by leader PSV, as well as close competitors FC Groningen and AZ, it was a successful weekend for Ajax on several fronts.
The match balls from the last two Ajax – VVV Venlo games are in Suarez’ football museum in Uruguay. Last season in Venlo, he scored all of the goals: 0-4. The match in Amsterdam (7-0) resulted in a hat trick for him, and the match ball. But, on Sunday, the star player from those matches was sitting out the first of his seven match suspension. His absence resulted in a patchwork line-up, with a starting spot for Teemu Tainio and Christian Eriksen, among others. Demy de Zeeuw and Siem de Jong remained on the bench.
It was anything but easy in the winter conditions and fairy – tale decor of the De Koel. In the first half, with Ajax playing toward into the white coated penalty kick area, nothing seemed to work. With Mounir El Hamdaoui and Miralem Sulejmani forming the attack, Ajax was hardly threatening. Only a few attempts made it into the books. In that respect, the Eredivisie’s number seventeen team seemed the fresher one. Ajax’s rigid first half offered the bottom feeder every opportunity to shake things up and score. Especially forward Ruud Boymans and the tall Michael Uchebo remained standing, although they didn’t give captain Maarten Stekelenburg much to worry about.
After the break, with Aras Özbiliz (20) making his debut, coming in for Tainio, Ajax started to play better. The active Sulejmani and Özbiliz kept the field broad and created speed on the flanks, providing a few surprises here and there in the game. With Mido coming in later on, Ajax got the point person they needed, ensuring that the necessary rebounds and possession.
The change in front paid off quickly. From an Ajax corner kick in the 62nd minute, Mido was there at lightning speed to shoot in the deflected ball at short range: 0-1. Leaping towards Martin Jol, the tall Egyptian was all smiles. After his goal in the cup match against BV Veendam, he’s now scored his first competition goal since his return to Amsterdam. Most of all, his goal signalled the end of Ajax’s scoring drought in the Eredivisie. It had been a long 341 minutes since Ajax had earned its last competition goal away at Heracles Almelo (1-4). The dry spell had finally ended.
Eight minutes after Mido made it 0-1, Ajax put the final nail in the coffin. Sulejmani successfully rounded off a combination with El Hamdaoui. With a sharp shot, Sulejmani crowned his strong match performance with a goal: 0-2. But Ajax didn’t make it out of the game scot-free. Two yellow cards, for El Hamdaoui and Sulejmani, earned them jeers from the crowd. But, considering the result, these events were simply a postscript in an otherwise successful match. Much more importantly, Ajax finally took home three points after a series of disappointing matches.
“We had a tough time during the first half. We weren’t convincing”, observed Jol afterwards. “After the break, when we played with two strikers and two wingers, things were better. Our game was more relaxed, and we controlled the match.” Ajax’s coach was pleased that it was Mido who brought Ajax into the lead. “It shows that there’s a reason that Mido is with us.”
Keep an eye on Ajax TV for a summary of VVV-Venlo – Ajax and reactions.