Ajax started the home game against FC Groningen knowing that all competitors in the race for the title had won their matches in this round of the competition. To take opponent’s results into account is actually not the focus for the league leaders. In past years, Ajax was often the chasing club. This season, all is different and the defending champion, and comfortable leader in the Eredivisie, hold their faith in their own hands. “Beating Groningen is of crucial importance. If we manage to do that, we will be very comfortable position for the last three games, “ De Boer stressed the importance of the penultimate home match.
Despite the bitter defeat Ajax suffered in the Euroborg this season (1-0, and a red card for Van der Wiel), a home win seemed a reasonable task at the start. Former Jong Ajax coach Pieter Huistra’s team is disappointing this season, with an Groningen unworthy position in the table as a result. Leaders Ajax had a hard time taking distance with the Groningers in the first half. The clear possession dominance (70% vs. 30%) took a long time to materialize into a goal difference.
Several opportunities, some larger than others, appeared in the sold out Amsterdam Arena, but he opening goal could only be celebrated on the brink of half time. Before Derk Boerrigter’s 1-0, Vurnon Anita (header) and Christian Eriksen (shot) saw their efforts stopped by goalkeeper Luciano Da Silva. The Dane’s strike was just saved on the line by former Ajacied Lorenzo Burnet, after a nice stop by the excelling goalkeeper. In the extra time of the first half, the goal finally fell, albeit with some luck. In the hunt for extension of the title, every help is welcome. Ajax was rewarded for patiently looking for a goal the entire half.
The goals started with a Siem de Jong shot, that was partly deflected by Petter Andersson, but ended in Boerrigter’s feet via a strange curve. The left winger slided the ball past an optionless Luciano. In this manner, the first half – somewhat dull and onesided – reached its highlight. Just before referee Serdar Gözübüyük called half time, the fans initiated a convincing “Kampioenen, Kampioenen (Champions, Champions)’.
“We dominated today, but missed the last finishing touch for a while” De Boer looked back upon the match in which his team was superior but forgot to express that in the score. “ I am satisfied about the first half, in which we pressured well. In the second half we had a few very good attacks, which also just missed a finish. Eventually, I am very proud of the boys. They are playing the way we want to play: dominating. As we should be in this final phase of the season. “
The scenario did not change during the second half. Ajax as the chaser and Groninger as the hunted, the prey. Kenneth Vermeer saw little action, but also saw it took his colleagues a longt time before deciding the match. Luciano played a role with saves on Janssen’s free kick and a placed ball by Van der Wiel. Eventually, Janssen layed the foundation for the 2-0 with a subtle touch. The midfielder fabulously found De Jong, after which substitute Kolbeinn Sigthórsson finished.
As occured against De Graafschap, the result surpassed the attractiveness of the game. That is understandable in this phase of the season. Nearly everything is justified in the quest for the 31st national title in the club’s rich history. Six points ahead of the nearest competitors AZ and Feyenoord, Ajax is one win away (and a draw during next week’s Feyenoord-AZ) from the league trophy. If the competition drops points in their meeting next week, and Ajax wins, the championship will be a fact. The ultimate goal will then have been achieved.