Ajax shows character, defeats Willem II

Ajax shows character, defeats Willem II

Ajax won its 3rd straight away game on Saturday evening.  However, it wasn’t an easy night in Tilburg.  Marcel Keizer & Company were down 1-0 in the 70th minute, but thanks to goals by Lasse Schöne, Siem de Jong and David Neres, they were victorious in the end.  The gap with leader PSV is now down to just 2 points.

Marcel Keizer was faced with a dilemma on the left side for this weekend’s game.  The coach couldn’t call on Vaclav Cerny (torn knee ligament) or Amin Younes (knee injury).  Kasper Dolberg was the solution and, with Klaas Jan Huntelaar and David Neres, formed the offense.

‘Mucha Fuerza Amigo’, was the slogan on the t-shirts that the team from Tilburg wore as they came onto the field.  This was a show of support for Willem II centre forward Fran Sol, who underwent surgery this week to remove a tumor.

Willem II has wings
Willem II appeared to grow wings from all of the positive energy in the Koning Willem II Stadium.  The Eredivisie’s number 15 team put on the pressure and relegated Ajax to its own half.  The first storm passed, but the Ajacieds knew that a different approach was needed.

This led to an even battle with chances for both sides.  The first one was for Huntelaar, but his header ended up safely in the hands of Willem II keeper Matthijs Branderhorst.  On the opposite side, Freek Heerkens met the same fate.  Andre Onana made a good save on his fast header.

Passes to Huntelaar and Dolberg
The biggest Willem II storm appeared to have run its course after fifteen minutes, as Ajax’s defenders noted.  Joël Veltman and Nick Viergever appeared often in the spaces on the sides.  The subsequent passes weren’t destined to reach Huntelaar and Dolberg, who were most often found in the Tilburg team’s penalty kick area.

This sloppiness in finishing was typical of the first half.  Both parties were imprecise in their passes and well played-out attacks were few and far between.  The spectacle from the first fifteen minutes made way for a slow period with no good opportunites.

Lead for Willem II
Fifteen minutes into the second half, the crowd was treated to the show that they had been waiting for.  Lasse Shöne pulled on his opponent’s arm and Dennis Higler didn’t hesitate to accord a penalty kick.  Etien Velikonja didn’t falter and brought the Tilburg team into a 1-0 lead.

After the opening goal, the game was transformed into an intense football battle.  Hakim Ziyech made his presence felt immediately in the front line, but his stumble didn’t warrant the game’s second penalty shot.  This surprised the Ajacieds, considering how easily Willem II had been awarded their penalty kick.

Marcel Keizer’s trump cards
Marcel Keizer stepped in and played his two trump cards: Daley Sinkgraven and Siem de Jong, who had scored twice against VV De Dijk, came in for Maximilian Wöber and Donny van de Beek.  The attacking substitutions were to create more traffic in the Tilburg team’s penalty kick area.

The pressure was used by Schöne in a positive way, when he took a chance and fired a long-distance shot.  Keeper Branderhorst had low visibility, was on the wrong foot, and saw the ball fly into the goal.  No great ceremony, but let’s get the ball and keep going! The Ajacieds still had 20 minutes to score the 1-2 goal.

The scenario that Keizer had been hoping for came true in the 79th minute, when Siem de Jong made good on his trump card status.  The substitute went in deep, received a pass from Huntelaar, and pulled the trigger into the far corner: 1-2!  The 1-0 deficit had been converted into a 1-2 lead.

Willem II went all-out on attack in order to score a tying goal, which created more room for the Ajacieds.  David Neres gratefully took advantage of that in the 91st minute.  The Brazilian was sharp on a rebound and scored the game’s final goal.  Ajax could finally breathe easy, and were assured of bringing 3 points back to Amsterdam.

See also: In pictures | Willem II - Ajax (1 - 3)