Ajax boss Ronald Koeman could not have wished for a better birthday present. His team defeated Vitesse by a wide margin and PSV again dropped points. The gap between the two rivals is now eleven points. ,,Normally the championship has been decided", Koeman announced after the one-sided match that was Ajax - Vitesse.
Ajax's coach could sit back and see how his squad did against a frighteningly poor Vitesse. His colleague Edward Sturing saw his players acting sluggish and careless. ,,The difference in quality was enormous, but we never tried to make it a real game. That is very embarrassing and disappointing. I am ashamed of my team", said the Vitesse boss, whose squad are fighting against relegation.
Koeman did not have that much to complain about. He had given Steven Pienaar a place in the starting line-up, in only his second match after being sidelined with an injury for five months. Zlatan Ibrahimovic began as a reserve. Koeman saw no reason to replace Yannis Anastasiou, and with good reason. The Greek striker was solid in possession, tactically smart and was always available to receive the ball. Anastasiou again proved his worth for Ajax, only a goal was missing on his list of accomplishments this afternoon.
But Maxwell's goal after sixteen minutes could largely be credited to the striker. The Brazilian sought the give-and-go with Anastasiou who returned the ball on a silver platter. Maxwell stayed calm and scored from close range. The other two goals in the first half were not the result of a combination. Wesley Sneijder suddenly, and beautifully, fired from long range, 2-0, and Mitea produced a soft effort which went by many players but went in anyway. It was the young Romanian winger's seventh goal of the season.
After halftime Ajax started slowly but Vitesse were not able to benefit from that. When Koeman brought on a couple of fresh faces - Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Anastasiou and Victor Sikora for Steven Pienaar - the ArenA got back to life. ,,The match was decided quickly'', Koeman said. ,,But apart from a careless phase in the second half, we kept on pushing on. And what more can I ask for than a big score, great moments and good goals?"
Ajax came to a handful of goals. Johnny Heitinga headed in a good corner by Wesley Sneijder in the 73rd minute and some time later it was again Sneijder who passed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker scored for the first time since his groin operation which caused him to miss several months: 5-0.
Koeman: ,,I am happy with the win. This way we steadily move toward the title. That should be ours now. We should never give away an advantage of eleven points. We will only have ourselves to blame if we don't win it'', said Koeman, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Sunday.