For the first time in 987 days, Ajax had the opportunity on Sunday to grab first place, but failed to do so. After a 3-1 halftime score, Heerenveen came back, 3-3. Substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored what seemed to be the winning goal, but the visiting team rallied for one last goal, bringing the final score to 4-4.
First place at stake today
Prior to the game, extra motivation came from Emmen. There, the local FC had grabbed two points from leader PSV, by tying the game in the final minutes, 2-2. This meant that should Ajax win, they would climb to first place since May 8, 2016.
Shower of goals
All seemed to be on track in this sloppy but nerve-wracking game, during which Ajax should have been in a 4-1 lead by halftime. But this wasn’t the case, as things had gone completely differently.
In the 13th minute, Dusan Tadic gave the team a much desired lead, but in the 1st counter, the opponents tied the game. Sam Lammers trumped substitute keeper Kostas Lamprou – stepping in for Andre Onana, who retired during the warm-up – with a low shot into the far corner, 1-1, after fifteen minutes of play. But Tadic brought Ajax back into the lead in no time thanks to a fantastic cross-pass by Daley Blind, 2-1.
Tadic missed opportunity for 4-1
In the 27th minute, Ajax had a two-goal margin. Keeper Warner Hahn completely missed a high shot. Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, between two Heerenveen players, created such a threat that Pelle van Amersfoort sent the 3-1 goal past his own keeper. At halftime, the score should have been 4-1, when the Amsterdam team was awarded a penalty kick, but Tadic’s shot was turned away by Hahn. Just how costly that miss would be became clear fifteen minutes into the second half.
Ajax much too sloppy
The fact is that Ajax was much too sloppy when it came out of the locker room. In the 50th minute, Lammers, for the second time in the afternoon, was able to take a good shot, and made good once again: 3-2. Five minutes later, the score was 3-3. Lammers served Van Bergen, who outplayed Sinkgraven and left Lamprou without a chance.
Hahn in the way
After that, Ajax had some opportunities, but Hahn stood in the way each time. There was a brief moment of excitement when Lamprou bumped Lammers and the video referee called the referee to take another look at the footage. Gözübüyük didn’t see any reason to award a penalty. Sadly, a new injury forced Sinkgraven to the sidelines in the 68th minute.
Not a golden substitution
The game remained very exciting in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Klaas Jan Huntelaar came in for Kasper Dolberg in the final 10 minutes, and the striker scored within 2 minutes, 4-3! It would have been a golden substitution, had Kik Pierie not scored on a corner in extra time, bringing the game to 4-4…
2019 thus got off to a false start. Next week in the Eredivisie, the Classic will take place in de Kuip in Rotterdam. But first, Heerenveen will visit again on Thursday, this time to play the quarter-finals of the TOT KNVB Cup.