Ajax is heading into the winter break as the league leader for the first time in ten years. Thanks to a late 2-1 away win at Roda JC, Ajax took full advantage of the loss of points suffered by competitors Vitesse and FC Twente. Substitute Jaïro Riedewald was the star in Kerkrade. The defender crowned his competition debut with two goals in the final minutes.
‘We’re in top spot!’ was the cry from the Ajax fans in the visitors’ stands on Sunday afternoon. And it was all thanks to 17 year old Jaïro Riedewald. Hoisted onto the shoulders of his team mates, he celebrated his dream Eredivisie debut with the fans who had made the trip. With a balled fist, he swayed to the sweet sounds of Ajax’s winter championship.
Three days after his official debut in the cup match against the Ijsselmeervogels, Riedewald immortalized himself by scoring twice against Roda JC at the end of the match. The defender thus personally turned a 1-0 deficit into a 1-2 win. This gave Ajax three valuable points in the last match of 2013.
Frank de Boer: “This is a nice fairy tale for Riedewald. It’s amazing to score two goals in your first Eredivisie match. Despite being down a goal for a long time, as a team we kept the faith. We also had sufficient opportunities, but the last pass was always missing, or we didn’t manage to pull the trigger. Fortunately, Jaïro did that for us in the end.”
Kolbeinn Sigthórsson got the nod over Danny Hoesen in rainy Kerkrade. After twelve minutes of play, the Icelander had a tremendous opportunity to score the first goal. On a Thulani Serero pass, Sigthórsson went searching for a goal, but found Roda keeper Kurto in his path. Shortly after that, Serero himself had a chance, but the midfielder’s shot went wide.
Ajax met a Roda that was full of confidence after a midweek cup victory against Vitesse. After coach Ruud Brood’s departure, the bottom-feeder had gotten a new boost under the lead of assistant coaches Rick Plum and Regilio Vrede. They would have loved to follow up the win against Vitesse with one against the current national champions. De Boer: “It was an advantage for us that we got to see the new coaches’ ideas last week. That match against Vitesse gave us a sneak peak at what they were doing.”
After half an hour of play, Kristián Németh got a great opportunity for the hosts. Jasper Cillessen made a good save, rescuing Ajax from a deficit at that moment. A few minutes later, the Ajax keeper was defeated by a shot from Henk Dijkhuizen. On a corner kick, the forward sent his header into the goal, 1-0. A scenario from last season was repeated. At that time as well, Roda JC nursed a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal by Guus Hupperts.
The rest of the match was almost identical to its previous edition. At that time, it was Christian Eriksen and Lasse Schöne who shared the credit with their goals at the end. This time, all eyes were on Riedewald. Despite good opportunities for Sigthórsson, Fischer and Klaassen after the break, it was Riedewald who restored shine to this match during his substitution. When he came in in the 80th minute, Roda was still enjoying a 1-0 lead. Fifteen minutes later, he saw his name appear twice on the scoreboard. The 1-1 was scored in the 88th minute on a pass from Danny Hoesen. Two minutes later, Riedewald was once again in the right place. With his left foot, he shot Ajax to victory and to the top of the Eredivisie rankings.
De Boer: “I want to compliment my players because they didn’t lose faith. That’s why I feel that we deserve this win. Thanks to this win, we’ll return to Amsterdam with a different feeling than we would have had if the tide hadn’t turned. It’s nice to now be at the top at the halfway point. Let’s home that, at the end of the road, we’re still there.”