Ajax convincingly reached the third round of the KNVB Cup in de Galgenwaard, where they defeated FC Utrecht 0-3. Tobias Sana and Ryan Babel scored in the first fifteen minutes. After the break, Christian Eriksen scored the third Ajax goal. Fabian Sporkslede made his debut for Ajax. The duel was paused for fifteen minutes during the second half due to several incidents.
It was a memorable evening for Ajax in several ways. For the first time in a long time, the Dutch champion won in Utrecht. However, the evening was marred by an unpleasant incident in which Utrecht supporters threw objects towards Ajax keeper Jasper Cillessen’s goal. Referee Nijhuis decided to temporarily halt the cup match during the second half. “That was a nuisance, but to be honest, I haven’t given it any more thought”, said a satisfied Frank de Boer at the end.
With a balled fist, Ryan Babel rallied his team mates at kick off. After three and a half years without a win in Utrecht, it was hoped that things would go better on Wednesday night, to avoid the cup journey being over after one match. Moreover, Ajax was trumped in last week’s away match against ADO Den Haag (1-1) in terms of sharpness and attitude. That needed to be radically different against Utrecht. “Forewarned is forearmed”, had said De Boer the day before the match.
The fact that the Amsterdam team considered itself warned was clear after fifteen minutes. With the practically unknown luxury of being in the 2-0 lead, Ajax experienced a swift start. After Derk Boerrigter’s warning shot, Tobias Sana made good one minute later. Following Ryan Babel’s fine move, Sana received the deflected shot at his feet. With a resolute shot in the eleventh minute, he put Ajax in the 1-0 lead in the Galgenwaard. Four minutes later, Babel and Sana once again were the co-authors of a goal, with Babel finishing this time. The centre forward’s good running move was seen by Sana. After that, it was a piece of cake for Babel to outplay keeper Robbin Ruiter, and shoot the ball in. It was Babel’s second goal since joining Ajax.
De Boer: “We were patient in the build-up, and namely Christian Poulsen was on top of Utrecht. Added to the fantastic atmosphere and the great field, and it was a great football evening in the making. At times, I saw very good football from our side. We need to continue in the same way for our upcoming matches.
Thanks to Ajax’s quick start, the booming sounds and the organized fireworks before the match were quickly forgotten. Like in many cities, a match against Ajax is considered to be the match of the year in Utrecht. It wasn’t until thirty minutes into the game that that this became apparent, when Edouard Duplan posed a threat twice. Jasper Cillessen saved the first shot, and on his second attempt, his pass went to Cedric van der Gun who was dangerously near the Ajax goal. On the other side, Ajax had a great chance on a header. After a half hour of play, Siem de Jong’s header on a Boerrigter pass hit the crossbar.
Just like last season, De Boer is giving Cillesen the opportunity to show what he can do during the cup tournament. In his first year at Ajax, Cillessen was limited to only three cup matches. He also played five competition matches. In Utrecht, he kept his goal clean, and lined up his next cup match.
The match was definitely decided eight minutes after the break. On a pass from – once again – Babel, Eriksen gave Ajax the 3-0 lead. The Danish midfielder fired his close range shot into the near corner. The goal acted as a release for Eriksen, who cheered extensively before the visitors’ stands and celebrated with his team mates and the Ajax fans who had come along.
Instead of a quiet last half hour, the match was interrupted in the 58th minute. FC Utrecht supporters were throwing objects in Cillessen’s direction from the stands, after which referee Nijhuis felt it was necessary to pause the cup match for fifteen minutes in Utrecht. While Ajax’s players waited in the catacombs, the one of the home team’s supporters rushed onto the field. Fortunately, the match could be resumed after a short cooling off period. “It was a pain to interrupt the match, but we shouldn’t pay too much attention to that. We wanted to keep on playing, but we eventually went inside when the referee said that he preferred to take a break to allow things to cool off.”
After the interruption, Ajax continued to hunt for more. The first away win since March 1 2009 could, after all, be celebrated with more fanfare. With Miralem Sulejmani coming in for Babel, Ajax continued to seek the attack. In succession, Sana, Eriksen (free kick) and Van Rhijn each took turns in trying to improve the score. Nobody was bothered that the fourth goal never came. De Boer: “We just played the game out stoically.”
De Boer took advantage of the significant lead to bring in two young players in the last half hour. Fabian Sporkslede made his debut in the 76th minute wearing number 40. Replacing Poulsen, Sporkslede was the 28th player that De Boer has called on in this still very fresh season. The day before, the 19 year old midfielder from Ajax’s own academy was made part of the match selection for the first time as the injured Thulani Serero’s replacement. Two minutes later, he was joined by Joël Veltman, coming in for Toby Alderweireld. This was good to see, leading up to the upcoming top matches against FC Twente and Real Madrid. But first, Ajax will go into the draw for the cup’s third round on Thursday evening.