Ajax got their revenge in the cup tie against sc Heerenveen for the loss earlier this season in the ArenA. In the closing minutes, Ajax scored tiwce, through strikers Charisteas and Babel: 2-0. ,,Although it stayed 0-0 for a long time, I had a good time'', coach Ronald Koeman said. For the next round, Ajax have drawn ADO Den Haag in an away match at The Hague.
Koeman put in the same eleven players he did against Utrecht last weekend. They did not shame the confidence the coach had in them. Rafael van der Vaart worked like a horse, Wesley Sneijder showed he was the perfect connection between defence and attack and Johnny Heitinga chose the right moments to step in before Heerenveen's forwards could create danger.
In the first home match after the winter break, Ajax did not hesitate to impress. With Angelos Charisteas, who made his first ArenA appearance, as the striker, Ajax combined to great effect. After fifteen minutes there could, and should, have been a margin between the two teams.
,,Yet a goal could have come at any moment'', Koeman said. ,,And we deserved it as well. But after a careless move by Maxwell, Heerenveen got their only real chance of the match. Huntelaar hit the outside of the post. Ajax also almost scored when Zdenek Grygera headed the ball onto the cross bar.
Grygera might have misfired on offence, defensively he stood tall together with Julien Escudé. Heerenveen hardly had a chance to shoot at Hans Vonk's goal.
But time kept ticking on and in a cup match, you never know. ,,It could have been 0-1, just like that'', said Heerenveen's coach Verbeek hopefully. ,,Or go into overtime and win after penalties. But Ajax deserved to win'', he admitted.
In the end, the home side prevailed. Angelos Charisteas scored his first goal in the Amsterdam ArenA. ,,It's nice that he said he would not have been satisfied if he hadn't scored, Koeman said about his newest Greek striker. ,,I am pleased with the way he played in the team." But Charisteas was not the only match winner.
Two minutes after the first goal, substitute Ryan Babel thundered it past the goalkeeper after a great combination with fellow sub Steven Pienaar: 2-0. His sixth goal in seven matches he has played for the first team.
In a little while, the coach can no longer keep the talented youngster on the bench ,,Mitea feels his presence in his back. In due time, I cannot stop Babel's arrival in the starting line-up. But I don't know when that time will come. Right now, I don't think he will start on Sunday, but that can change when I wake up on Sunday.''