Last day of a fantastic season

Ajax gave the season a worthy finish with a 3-0 victory over Heerenveen. The match did not turn into a football show, but farewell matches rarely do. It took a long time for Ajax to score the first goal, so 'they' in Groningen, where PSV played FC Groningen for the title, did not have to be nervous. Two goals by Sikora and one by Chivu made sure that Ajax finished second in the league table, one point behind champions PSV and three points ahead of Feyenoord.

This season's statistics are better than in last year's championship season. Then Ajax finished with 73 points, won 22 times and drew seven times. Goal difference: 73-34. These figures pale in comparison to this season, in which Ajax gathered 83 points, scored 96 times and allowed 32 goals.

But almost these figures were not even good enough to win a place in the preliminary round of the Champions League. Until Feyenoord faltered at Willem II last week and Ajax could stop looking down and could start looking up in the last match of the season.

But then Ajax would have to beat Heerenveen by 5-0 and PSV would have to lose at Groningen by at least 2-0. Heerenveen had chances to qualify for the UEFA Cup, while Groningen needed one point to avoid playing against relegation. Ronald Koeman had already indicated that playing for a 5-0 win was impossible. Winning was the main obect, not the goal difference. Because not winning in the last match of Witschge, who was in the starting line-up, Winter, Timmer, Didulica and Mendes, would mean the farewell would lose its shine.

Witschge tried to turn the match into a bit of a show and with his first touch he back-heeled the ball through the legs of Marcel Seip.

But Witschge's tricks did not inspire Ajax in the first half as the team played sluggishly and Ajax lost Pienaar with an injury. The South-African played around striker Ibrahimovic. The Swede played again after being suspended for five games, but he was not as sharp as he had promised he would be.

Yet it was a strike by Ibrahimovic that led to Ajax's first goal. The ball bounced away from goalkeeper Vonk and Victor Sikora, who had come on for Pienaar, did not hesitate and shot the ball against the nets: 1-0. Right after the goal, the first half ended. There was still some hope, as there had not been any goals in Groningen yet.

Ajax had 45 minutes left for a big win. But thirteen minutes went by before goal number 2 was added. A thunderous strike by Andy van der Meyde was tipped into the goal by Chivu. The fans were still hoping for a show and Ajax could have expanded their lead within a few minutes, if Van der Vaart and Nigel de Jong had not missed a pair of great opportunities.

In Groningen it was still 0-0 with half an hour to play, which indicated that nothing would change there. With both teams needing one point, neither side would risk being surprised.

Not many things went Ajax's way and Heerenveen had a chance to get a goal back through substitute Samaras. But Bogdan Lobont insisted on keeping a clean slate in the last match and boxed away the striker's effort.

With ten minutes to play Ajax made the final substitution. On the shoulders of his teamates and under a standing ovation by the crowd, Richard Witschge left the match. A long and distinguished career ended against SC Heerenveen for the midfielder.

But the match hadn't finished yet. Sikora had to close off his season in style. The winger, troubled by injuries and lack of form earlier this season, wanted to give his great return a fitting finish. After a lob by Van der Vaart just missed, Sikora headed in Ajax's third. The 3-0 was the finish of a great season for Ajax.