Thanks to beautiful play on offense at the start and end of the match, Ajax has handed PEC Zwolle their first defeat of the season. Goals by Klaas Jan Huntelaar (2x) and Hakim Ziyech resulted in a 3-0 victory.
Ajax, wearing mourning bands to honour recently deceased Ajacied Piet Ouderland, hosted the surprisingly high-ranked PEC Zwolle. After three rounds of play, former Ajacied John van ‘t Schip’s team had 7 points, one more than Ajax. That has earned them third place in the Eredivisie. Coach Marcel Keizer’s team was ranked three spots lower.
After the interland weekend, Keizer had weighed his options and chosen the Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Kasper Dolberg tandem. Compared to the last Eredivisie game against VVV-Venlo, this change came at Frenkie de Jong’s expense. David Neres took over Vaclav Cerny’s position.
Sublime opening goal
After a short adaptation phase from Ajax’s side, the home team opened the score in the sixth minute. With a flawless ball receipt, David Neres sent Bram van Polen on a wild goose chase. The Brazilian made a pass ahead to Huntelaar, who crowned the beautiful attack with a sublime goal: with a back-heel shot, he scored the 1-0 goal.
Ajax was on a roll and set up one great combination after another. A flaming shot by Dolberg flew over, and a header by Matthijs de Ligt from a Ziyech free kick unfortunately didn’t make good. Dolberg worked under pressure from defender Kingsley Ehizibue and sent a shot from Neres’ pass wide of the goal. This was all in the first fifteen minutes.
Loss of flair and finesse
After that, Ajax slowly lost its flair and finesse. They did remain dangerous at times, but after Onana had stretched to make a save in the corner, Ajax inexplicably started to sink after their fantastic start. Nothing from that glorious start of the first half remained. The Ajacieds easily relinquished the ball at midfield, were unable to communicate with each other, and were simply lucky that opponent PEC Zwolle wasn’t having a great night, either.
At halftime, coach Keizer had the chance to get his team back on track. Fortunately, the poor playing hadn’t resulted in any bad consequences – at least not yet. Ajax wasn’t exactly sharp of the starting blocks either, as it was Piotr Parzyszek who had the first opportunity on behalf of Zwolle. It was only in the 53rd minute that keeper Boer was forced to do some work. The former Ajacied, who had immediately trounced Mickey van de Hart from the squad, boxed a shot by Ziyech out of his goal.
Keizer steps in
Keizer stepped in in the 63rd minute, bringing in Frenkie de Jong and Justin Kluivert for Kasper Dolberg and David Neres. The hope was that Ajax would regain its flair from the opening phase. In any case, Kluivert drew a penalty kick right away. Ziyect took it, but former team-mate Boer turned away the shot.
Liberation came in the 71st minute. Offense was finally streamlined. Younes sent Huntelaar in. He found Kluivert on the right. He made a quick pass and Ziyech neatly ticked the ball into the goal, 2-0. The 3-0 nearly followed three minutes later. Once again, Younes sent Huntelaar in deep. He sent a chip over Boer, but unfortunately, it went over the goal, too. The all-time top shooter in the ArenA managed to score one last goal in the final minutes, bringing the final score to a comfortable 3-0.
See also: In pictures | Ajax - PEC Zwolle (3-0)