Substitute Kenneth Perez made the difference between Ajax and NEC. The Dane scored two goals in the second half to lead Ajax past the visitors from Nijmegen: 2-0.
Ajax had their difficulties with NEC for over an hour. But it were not so much the visitors who created the problems, but the Ajax players themselves. The home side created plenty of opportunities, but failed to capitalise. ,,The last pass was not good enough’’, said coach Henk ten Cate mainly about wingers Mauro Rosales and Ryan Babel. The forwards had enough room to make their moves but not many of their crosses reached striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar or any other teammate.
,,We were also too impatient in the first half’’, said Ten Cate. ,,Some guys wanted to give the pass of their lives. Patience is a virtue in this case.’’ With Ajax passing on a subpar level and NEC mainly on defence, the first hour of Ajax - NEC went very slowly.
Ajax had begun well. Urby Emanuelson - with Perez the best player on the pitch - and Ryan Babel could and should have given their team the lead in the first minutes of the match. NEC's goalkeeper Gabor Babos saved each time.
After the good start, Ajax's goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg had to show of his skills when NEC's Chris Eagles was given the ball by Roger and the NEC forward had only Stekelenburg to beat. The Ajax goalie saved and that was the last real chance for NEC in the match.
NEC played mainly to prevent Ajax goals, not so much to score themselves. ,,The goal by Kenneth Perez came out of nowhere'', said NEC boss Mario Been about the 1-0. From at least twenty metres out, the Dane fired the ball past Babos. Although the NEC coach said that his team had given away the goal by poor defending, Perez' first goal was pure individual class. For his second goal, Perez did get a free path through the NEC defence. Ten minutes before the end, he scored with a strike in the low left corner: 2-0.
Ten Cate sang Perez' praises after the match, as well as Urby Emanuelson's. Apart from the mistakes that prevented his team from scoring earlier, Ten Cate also praised the team effort. ,,We gave nothing away and kept a clean slate. We have also scored ten goals in three home matches. I don't think we played badly today. We deserved to win and we played better than in our previous three matches.’’