Ajax has put itself in good position for their return match of the cup final. In the first match in the red and white clad Amsterdam ArenA, Ajax posted a 2-0 win thanks to two early goals from Siem de Jong. The result is good, but the battle hasn’t been won yet. Things will certainly heat up on May 6 in de Kuip. “But you can sign up for a result like 2-0”, said coach Jol after the match.
The question beforehand was who would be able to manoeuvre themselves into the best position for the second game, on Sunday May 6, in Rotterdam’s de Kuip. This second match was to the clear displeasure of Feyenoord. They would have much preferred one match at home, in de Kuip; Ajax didn’t seem to mind playing both a home and away match as much.
In light of the line-up, the visitors’ placed more importance on preventing Ajax from scoring, than on scoring themselves. This tactic wasn’t even successful for ten minutes. Because even though Feyenoord placed the emphasis on defence, Ajax was able to break through twice in that interval.
Ajax was eager from the start. Beforehand, Ajax had expressed their lack of esteem for Feyenoord’s performance against FC Twente, when the team from Rotterdam put up very little resistance. Ajax wanted to take their revenge - which they did within ten minutes.
In the sixth minute, Siem de Jong had perfect timing on a long ball from the back, and passed Erwin Mulder, who hopelessly grabbed for the ball, and made the exuberant red and white ArenA explode. The Ajax fans were barely seated before they stood up again. Shortly after the opening goal, Urby Emanuelson’s sharp assist found De Jong once again, who scored his second goal of the night, 2-0.
After that, the match lost a bit of steam. Ajax didn’t lose their cool during Feyenoord’s few attacks, but had to concede that the Rotterdammers had more presence during the match. But Maarten Stekelenburg had only one save to make, on an attempt from Luigi Bruins.
In the 39th minute, the fans were calling for a third goal, but Marko Pantelic was unlucky with his chip over Mulder. The last five minutes before halftime belonged to Feyenoord, and it would have made a world of difference for the return to their home crowd if they had managed to make it 2-1.
Jol: “We had a fantastic scenario, two goals in seven minutes. Especially since we knew that Feyenoord’s aim was to keep a clean sheet here. It’s also tough for Ajax to have two final games. We can’t have an ‘we’ll keep it tight and sit back’ approach. The 2-0 was a blow for Feyenoord, and we couldn’t take advantage of it. We had three, four more opportunities, and that’s not what we’d call good. But, beforehand, you can sign up for a 2-0 result.”
Ajax could have increased their lead during the second half. Pantelic came close to 3-0 in the 52nd minute, but Mulder was alert and made the save on his header. In the 71st minute, Suarez took a surprisingly hard shot, but Mulder was able to knock the ball to corner. At that point, Pantelic had just been replaced by Dennis Rommedahl. There wasn’t much left of Ajax’s original approach. Their burning ambition to make the second match irrelevant had somewhat fizzled out. Of course, they continued to try to increase their lead, but their middle and front line were sloppy, hampering their attempts. Thus the score remained 2-0.
Taking Ajax’s away record since the winter break, this result gives perspective. Ajax has scored in almost all of their away games at least once; only the match at Juventus remained 0-0. But should the coming match in Rotterdam remain scoreless, Ajax will return to Amsterdam with the cup.