Ajax was unable to win the top competition match against PSV. After 90 enthralling minutes on the last day of play of 2016, a disappointing draw was displayed on the Ziggo video scoreboard: 1-1. Davy Klaassen brought his team onto the winning track shortly before halftime. But it was former Ajacied Siem de Jong who erased Klaassen’s lead in the final minutes. In the next calendar year, the difficult task of catching up to winter champion Feyenoord awaits Ajax.
Ajax-PSV was a high pressure top match. There were several heated collisions inside the chalk lines, not to mention the pressure of the rankings. Neither title contender wanted to suffer a loss in pursuit of winter champion Feyenoord. The top competition game in the ArenA was a thrilling fight. It was a duel on the edge, and sometimes, just over it.
In the most heated moments of the game, the home team suffered some damage. Andrés Guardado’s (too aggressive) body-check ended the game for Anwar El Ghazi. The wing forward was taken off on a stretcher; the Mexican player didn’t even get a yellow card. Mateo Cassierra came in for El Ghazi. Striker Kasper Dolberg also sustained an injury early in the match. Four minutes after his fellow Ajacied’s sad departure, he was also forced to the sidelines. Vaclav Cerny was the second substitute in Peter Bosz’s unfortunate team, after just 25 minutes. The 90 minute-game had just passed the one-quarter mark.
It was substitute Cassierra who had the greatest opportunity to bring Ajax into the lead prior to the break. But PSV keeper Jeroen Zoet got his glove on the Colombian forward’s shot, making the save. In addition to that, Cassierra saw two more of his attempts disappear wide. Lasse Schöne (beautiful free kick) and Amin Younes (sharp shot into the near corner) couldn’t get the ball past international Zoet. Thanks mostly to Zoet’s good keeping, the competition game remained in a shaky balance until halftime.
Almost immediately after the break, during which former coach Frank de Boer was bid an extensive and great farewell, the balance was disrupted. Remarkably, Cassierra completed his part in the equation. The substitute striker jumped cleverly over a pass from Younes, after which Davy Klaassen sent a hard shot with sublime precision into the upper corner. The sold-out ArenA went crazy at the 1-0 goal. Former Ajacied Daley Blind, who was in the audience, was sure to have greeted his former team-mate’s goal with cheers.
But this wasn’t true, of course, for Siem de Jong, former Ajacied who started off with the PSV substitutes. After 58 minutes, the elder De Jong made his entry into the stadium where he had celebrated many successes with Ajax. Whatever your perspective was, Ajax was in the lead, which, based on the first 45 minutes, was well-deserved.
Bosz had been forced to make changes to his squad before kick-off. After Nick Viergever’s red card from the competition game loss at FC Twente, Jairo Riedewald was designated as his replacement. Together with Davinson Sánchez, Riedewald formed a trustworthy defensive heart. Three days after the cup elimination at Cambuur, a match in which Bosz had given many bench-warmers and young talents playing time, Daley Sinkgraven was also back. The left back returned after an injury and took over the position that Mitchell Dijks had been filling in.
Cassierra was also prominent in the last half hour. The striker was once again unlucky that Zoet stood in the way of his long shot. When Cassierra did make good, he was offside. On the opposite end of the field, Riedewald prevented Siem de Jong from striking with a good blocking play.
The PSV player hurt his former club ten minutes before the end. De Jong, who played in 244 official matches for Ajax between 2007 and 2014, plucked the ball mid-air and rounded off flawlessly with one fluid movement.
Race for the title
The tying goal (1-1) must have been celebrated extensively in Rotterdam South by each and every Feyenoord fan. With this draw, both Ajax and PSV squandered precious points in the race for the title. There could be no better gift for Feyenoord on Sunday. The Amsterdam team needs to make up five points against the Rotterdammers. PSV are eight points behind the leader.