After the 1-2 win against Panathinaikos in the UEFA Europa League, Ajax continued in the same vein in the Eredivisie. Three days after the win in Athens, the Amsterdam team defeated Heracles in the Polman Stadium on Sunday, 0-2. Davy Klaassen and Nemanja Gudelj scored for the Amsterdam team.
In his attempt to find balance and consistency, Peter Bosz had not made any changes to this starting eleven compared to the last matches against Panathinaikos and Vitesse. The Ajax coach would also have been able to find his way around Polman Stadium even if he had been blindfolded. Split over two periods, Bosz was the pride of Almelo’s head coach for five years. Just like the Amsterdam team’s head coach, his assistant coach Hendrie Krüzen was also returning to familiar football territory.
Eredivisie leader Feyenoord had set a good example earlier that afternoon. The Rotterdam team won their competition match against PSV 0-1. With one match in hand, the Amsterdam team was eight points down on Feyenoord at 16:45. At kick-off of Heracles – Ajax, the mission was thus to make up three points on Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team.
Ajax had filled up on confidence after the Europa League win against Panathinaikos in Athens. One week earlier, Vitesse had been defeated in the ArenA: 1-0. This mini- winning streak needed to be continued in Almelo. But it wasn’t an easy afternoon for the Ajacieds.
In the first half, Ajax created opportunities, but the Amsterdam team’s playing was often lackluster. Former Ajacied Lerin Duarte, who returned to Heracles at the start of this season, created the first real danger of the match in the seventh minute. Andre Onana stopped the long-range shot well. Soon after that, Ajax striker Bertrand Traoré’s loss of possession brought Navratil into prime scoring position. The Heraclied’s shot went wide. At the fifteen minute mark, Ajax counted its lucky starts when referee Serdar Gözübüyük didn’t punish Mitchell Dijks’ hands. Ajax’s left back unwittingly touched the shot in the Amsterdam team’s box by centre forward Samuel Armenteros with his hand. Gözübüyük didn’t call the penalty,
That word applied mainly to the Ajacieds in the last fifteen minutes of the first half. Hakim Ziyech, after thirty minutes, was mostly visible with a pass from the right. Unfortunately, the ball sailed over Traoré. Just before halftime, Nick Viergever – who had scored the match winner last week against Vitesse – seemed poised to score again with a header, on a pass from Nemanja Gudelj. The central defender saw his attempt stopped by keeper Bram Castro.
One minute later, Viergever was struck with bad luck after a header pass from Klaassen. Defender Davinson Sánchez, who had come up, got to the ball a fraction sooner than Viergever, who had actually been in better position to strike. Ajax closed the first half with a shot from Ziyech (blocked by Mike te Wierik) and a shot on goal by Jairo Riedewald. The midfield controller saw his shoe disappear into the side net.
Ajax took the lead, although it was a case of pure good fortune. Two minutes after the substitution of Hakim Ziyech for Kasper Dolberg, a high pass from Mitchell Dijks landed at Davy Klaassen’s feet temperamentally via Breukers. The Ajax captain and club top scorer knew exactly what to do with this gift and scored from nearby: 0-1. Soon after that, Sánchez seemed poised to double the visitors’ lead. Substitute Peter van Ooijen turned the attempt away at Heracles’ goal line.
It was just delaying the inevitable for the home team. Especially after Navratil, and earlier, Armentoros, had failed to convert on great scoring opportunities. Onana kept his team out of trouble. Castro couldn’t avoid another goal against. Ten minutes after Klaassen’s opening goal, Nemanja Gudelj struck. The Serbian Ajacied didn’t nead any help from a Heraclied for his goal; the midfielder kept control and rounded off coolly: 0-2. With substitutes Daly Sinkgraven (for Younes) and Anwar El Ghazi (for Traoré), Ajax, with a new offensive line, brought the job to a satisfactory conclusion in the Polman Stadium.
Thus Ajax ended a week in which Vitesse, Panathinaikos and Heracles were beaten with a great feeling. The Amsterdam team maintains its standing among the top teams with the same number of points (13) as PSV and AZ. Leader Feyenoord has a five point lead on its nearest challengers.
After a midweek cup game on Wednesday, in which Willem II (kick-off at 20:45) will be their adversary in the ArenA, Ajax resumes competition play with last-placed PEC Zwolle. The Zwolle team are still looking for their first win of the season. Ajax – PEC Zwolle will take place on Saturday at 19:45. Tickets are still available for the upcoming home games against Willem II and PEC.