Demy de Zeeuw put Ajax on the right track against FC Twente. The midfielder’s contribution turned out to be the first step to a 3-0 victory. A win with much more impact than the three points it delivered…
It was sink or swim in the race for the title. Ajax was fully aware of the high stakes during this top match against FC Twente. Losing points against their competitor for the title would significantly lessen any championship aspirations. But a win against the ‘Tukkers’ would provide a much needed new outlook on success in the Eredivisie. The virtually sold out ArenA was crackling with excitement during the match of 2010. After a thrilling game, Ajax still has a fighting chance at success! As of Sunday, the gap with FC Twente has shrunk to six points. They trail PSV, who beat ADO Den Haag 2-0, by nine points.
Ajax coach Martin Jol reinstated left back Vurnon Anita to the squad for the match against the ‘Tukkers’. Urby Emanuelson therefore moved positions. Siem de Jong also had a spot on the squad, while Dennis Rommendahl started on the bench. The Danish winger was sitting next to his brand new team member, Nicolas Lodeiro. The injured Eyong Enoh and Toby Alderweireld watched the game from seats in the ArenA. Oleguer replaced the Belgian in the heart of the defence. Unlike the last match against Roda JC (4-0), Hyun Jun Suk watched the match from the stands.
After Marko Pantelic set the tone with a header that went wide, FC Twente took firm control of the game. Bryan Ruiz, Blaise N’Kufo en Kenneth Perez all failed to make good on fine opportunities within the first fifteen minutes. The ‘Tukkers’ took advantage of the holes in the Ajax defence. Perez made it quite far in, after which the totally unmanned N’Kufo shot just wide. Minutes earlier, Ruiz was outplayed just in time. Ex Ajax player Perez suffered the same fate. Gregory van der Wiel prevented a seemingly sure goal.
Demy de Zeeuw turned the game around. The ball landed – with a bit of luck – at the midfielder’s feet, via Urby Emanuelson. De Zeeuw didn’t hesitate and was rewarded: 1-0. That this goal went completely against the tide of the match up until that point was irrelevant to the crowd in the lively ArenA. “The first goal was very important”, said Jol afterwards. “After that, we kept the pressure on Twente, and didn’t let them play their game. We got more opportunities, and made the most of them. At the end, we deserved to win.”
The quest for the second goal was mainly stunted by the impassable Douglas. The Brazilian even seemed to stop, within one moment and with one fluid motion, shots coming from two Ajax players. The South American athlete finally gave in one minute before the end of the first half. FC Twente seemed slightly defeated after De Zeeuw’s goal. Even the impenetrable defensive block couldn’t prevent 2-0. After Suarez hit the crossbar, Marko Pantelic slid the ball past Sander Borschker. The Serb took advantage of Van der Wiel’s assist, when this last player reacted swiftly after Suarez hit the post.
The two goals hit FC Twente like a sledgehammer, and they never recovered. Coach Steve McClaren’s defeated team weren’t really in the game anymore after halftime. The tight offensive fist that the ‘Tukkers’ still formed didn’t break Ajax’s stride. The difference between Twente’s first and second half, both in performance and class, was big. Kenneth Perez had the best opportunity, with his shot hitting the post.
Ajax took their time to deliver the final blow. Van der Wiel shot the ball from a difficult angle into substitute keeper Cees Paauwe’s hands. A Suarez goal was unjustly disqualified as offside. Paauwe came in for the injured Sander Borschker. Luis Suarez seemed to gain momentum as the clock ticked away. The Uruguayan at times seemed unstoppable. Dennis Rommendahl finally put the ex – league leader out of its misery. Ten minutes after he came in for Emanuelson, the Danish player made good. In preparation, Rasmus Lindgren (played the ball away from Theo Janssen) and Pantelic (passed to Rommendahl) were invaluable. A tense – especially for the home team - afternoon of football, ended on the perfect high note.
“After defeats against PSV and Twente, we’ve been trying to catch up all season”, continued Jol. “Especially since PSV and FC Twente are two very solid teams. In these top matches at home, you need to make it happen yourself. And fortunately, today, that’s exactly what we did. At the right moment, we struck. Now we can look to the top again. Twente still have to face some tough matches.”
Nicolas Lodeiro took part in the Amsterdam celebration during the last minutes. The Uruguayan made his debut substituting for De Zeeuw. “Demy actually couldn’t start”, said Jol at the press conference. Smiling: “But I’m glad that he actually was there from the start.” Coach McClaren agreed that Ajax deserved to win. “After the 1-0 - which came out of thin air – we lost confidence and made mistakes”, said the Englishman in retrospect. “We took too long to recover from the 1-0. It became a mountain. Ajax made three goals and deserved to win.”