What should have been a cup celebration for Ajax ended up being a tremendous letdown. After a strange start with a beautiful goal by Ricardo van Rhijn, followed by a half-hour of suspended play due to fireworks being thrown onto the field, Ajax was hunted down by a wild, passionate PEC Zwolle. A serious thrashing followed: 5-1.
Soon after kick-off, so many fireworks were thrown onto the field from the Ajax stands onto the penalty kick area of their own keeper, Kenneth Vermeer, that play had to be suspended after only ten seconds. Once the smoke had cleared, referee Nijhuis resumed play. But this didn’t last long. Although Ricardo van Rhijn defeated keeper Diederik Boer from far out after only three minutes, putting Ajax into a 0-1 lead, people from the Ajax supporters stands behind the goal started throwing fireworks onto the field again. Nijhuis called the players inside, and the speaker informed the firework throwers that their actions were putting their own keeper in danger. A furious Edwin van der Sar addressed the stands, telling them to ‘cut this nonsense out’. If not, the match would be called off and, consequently, Ajax would lose the prize.
This is a prize that Ajax has won eighteen times in 24 appearances in the finals. This forms a stark contrast with opponent PEC Zwolle. This marked the third time that they had reached the finals, and hadn’t won the KNVB Cup once. They were in a position to write history. But so was Ajax. Should they win the Cup, then the Triple would only be a matter of time. And that would be a unique occurrence in the history of national club football.
Compared to last Sunday’s competition match against ADO Den Haag, Frank de Boer had changed his line-up in several places. That meant that Jasper Cillessen, Christian Poulsen and Ruben Ligeon watched the cup final from the sidelines. A spot on the bench wasn’t an option for Joël Veltman: due to a suspension following a red card in the AZ match, he was forced to miss the cup final match.
But this cup final was almost called off because of the fireworks incident. Fortunately, after a half-hour cooling-off period, the referee directed the players back onto the field. This interruption seemed to hinder PEC Zwolle the least. Ajax let itself be defensively outplayed time and time again, and every opposing opportunity seemed threatening. After 35 minutes of play, the scoreboard read 4-1 thanks to goals by Ryan Thomas and two great goals by Guyon Fernandez, who had called De Kuip his home base during his time with Feyenoord.
How was Ajax supposed to set things straight in the second half? The answer came quickly, but not from Ajax. PEC Zwolle merrily continued to score. Bram van Polen saw his club take an unheard of 5-1 lead after fifty minutes of play. De Boer took action – Bojan and Moisander went out and De Sa and Poulsen came in – but to little effect. In the last eleven minutes, Ricardo Kishna was the one to remove his training jacket, but Ajax’s cup fairy tale had abruptly ended. The only question left after this disappointment was how this thrashing will potentially affect the Amsterdam team, who are in a position to win the championship next Sunday at Heracles.
Frank de Boer was gracious in this loss: “I want to congratulate all of Zwolle on this historic evening. PEC Zwolle deserved to win. At the end, they showed that they very much wanted to win this cup, and we didn’t. At the end, we should be happy that it wasn’t 8-1. We had an off day. It’s difficult to explain why. Because it you get ahead 1-0 so beautifully, it should give you wings. Instead, it seemed to clip ours.”