Ajax takes huge step towards title

Ajax takes huge step towards title

Ajax has taken a huge step towards its 33rd national title. In the sold-out Amsterdam ArenA, the leader defeated contender FC Twente, 3-0. Stefano Denswil, Lasse Schöne and Bojan scored the goals. Because Ajax was faultless and several of its competitors squandered points, Ajax took a leap towards winning the championship.

The victory against FC Twente is Ajax’s twelfth home win and eighteenth in total this season in the Eredivisie. In addition to that, Ajax kept a clean sheet at home for the tenth time. The win against Twente underlines both trends again. After two ties, against Cambuur and NAC, Ajax won full points against competitor Twente. This win was worth its weight in gold. With just five games remaining, Ajax is almost certain of winning the title.

De Boer identified Twente as Ajax’s greatest competitor. ‘We can’t allow them to smell any blood’ was his urgent advice to his players ahead of the game. A few days before both Vitesse and PSV lost points, Ajax was in a position to take a big step towards winning its fourth straight national championship. And they did. Thanks to this win against Twente, the difference between the two teams is not ten points. Vitesse and PSV (with one more game played) are nine points behind Ajax. Feyenoord, who like Ajax have played one game less, is the new number 2, eight points behind. This Wednesday, the differences can increase when Ajax plays number 16 RKC in Waalwijk in the make-up game. Feyenoord also plays that day, at Heracles Almelo.

Three days after reaching the cup finals, Ajax was faced with its next important match. Compared to the semi-final win against AZ, Frank de Boer made four changes to his line-up. Logically, Jasper Cillessen returned to the goal. The first keeper witnessed an excellent match played by the ‘cup keeper’ Kenneth Vermeer, who played a large part in the 0-1 win away. Moreover, Ricardo Kishna got the nod instead of Lesly de Sa, Stefano Denswil replaced the injured Niklas Moisander (knee injury) and De Boer went with the mobile Bojan instead of Kolbeinn Sigthórsson at centre forward.

Ajax played FC Twente in a special jersey. Just like in the past two seasons, head sponsor Ajax relinquished its spot on the jersey for one match to the Disabled Sports Fund. Just like in past years, Aegon’s gesture ensured much attention leading up to the annual collection week for this Fund. During the match against Twente, 130 special guests were in the stands. As tradition has dictated for the past few seasons, Ajax and Aegon invited a few former players for an annual reunion. There was quite a lot happening on Sunday in the ArenA.

The guests of honour in the Engelenbak saw, as did the other spectators in the sold-out ArenA, a fairly equal first half. After a strong opening phase on the visitors’ part, both Ajax and Twente had many opportunities. Twente came close to scoring a few times via Gutiérrez (wide), Schilder (lob) Mokthar (outside of the post) and Castaignos (upper corner). Ajax had chances from Kishna and Bojan. It was Stefano Denswil who, after half an hour of play, sent in a header on a Lasse Schöne free kick: 1-0. Exactly half a year after he scored with a header in the Champions League against AC Milan, he scored his first competition goal against Twente.

At the start of the second half, a similar scenario to before the break ensued. Twente applied pressure and created opportunities. But, again, they failed to score. The next goal came fifteen minutes after the break on the other side. Twente was dominant in this phase, but it was Ajax who executed a brilliant attack. Bojan launched Van Rhijn on the right flank, and he continued towards the opponent’s goal. Seeing his teammate, Van Rhijn passed to Schöne, who brought Ajax into the 2-0 lead. Twente were thus effectively stymied. The numbers spoke for themselves.

With a 2-0 lead in their pocket, Ajax started to play a bit more freely. Despite the danger posed by Twente, Ajax had more room to breathe thanks to the second goal. With Sigthórsson coming in for Kishna, the offense was refreshed shortly after the second goal. And, with a potential Twente goal always in the air, Ajax was once again very effective and scored a third goal, six minutes after the second one. This time, it was Bojan who brought the lively ArenA to its feet. With a hard shot, he brought Ajax into a 3-0 lead midway through the second half. This score brought a big smile to the faces of the Ajax players. The fourth championship in a row just got a lot closer. “We took a good step today”, said Frank de Boer afterwards. “It would be stupid if we didn’t win the championship now. But we’re not there yet. Our focus is now on RKC.”