On Sunday, Ajax scarcely took advantage of a rare mistake by Feyenoord. The Ajacieds were unable to earn more than a tie against FC Groningen: 1-1. After a 1-0 deficit, Davy Klaassen pulled one point out of the fire for the Amsterdam team.
Shortly before two-thirty, Ajax received good news from het Kasteel. Sparta had won the city derby against Feyenoord (1-0), providing Ajax with a golden opportunity to gain ground on the leader. The result was greeting with cheers in the visitors’ stands of the Noordlease Stadium.
Peter Bosz had already solved a small problem. His team is suffering from injuries, especially on defense. Nick Viergever couldn’t play, and his replacement, Jairo Riedwald, was forced to retire during the warm-up. The Ajacied’s groin injury was too painful. Matthijs de Ligt was thus promoted to a starting spot. Left back Daley Sinkgraven returned to the squad after recovering from his recent injury.
Bertrand Traoré had the greatest opportunities of the first half. The forward from Burkina Faso sent his first attempt wide of the goal in the first minute. Fifteen minutes later, Groningen keeper Sergio Padt had to pull out all of the stops to make a save on a shot from the right. It was hard, but Padt prevented an Ajax goal. Just before halftime, Traoré had perhaps his greatest opportunity. The African received Davy Klaassen’s pass badly and the Groningen defense was thus able to intervene.
The keeper, a former Ajacied, then had good fortune on his side when Amin Younes took a shot. The left forward curved the ball towards the left corner, but it hit the post instead. The ball shot back out onto the field, bouncing off the aluminum. After the first – and only – Groningen attempt in the first half via Simon Tibbling (saved by Andre Onana), Hakim Ziyech was unlucky in the finish. The midfielder saw his attempt go over Padt’s goal. The unavoidable consequence was a stalemate at halftime.
Ten minutes after halftime, the visitors suffered a painful setback. Everything seemed alright at first when Onana had neutralized Bryan Linssen easily. But things went back when the Groningen player scrambled to his feet quickly and challenged Onana to a duel once again. Linssen bumped into Onana, after which the Ajacied tripped and the Groningen player scored into the empty goal: 1-0. Referee Bas Nijhuis allowed the controversial opening goal to stand.
Three minutes later, Lasse Schöne had the tying goal at his feet. The Dane’s shot seared just over the crossbar. Kasper Dolberg (save by Padt) and Sinkgraven (ball on the goal’s roof) came close, but never close enough. An extra painful loss seemed in the works for the title contender in the Noordlease Stadium.
Davy Klaassen gave hope to all Ajax hearts in the 82nd minute. On a pass from Sinkgraven, the captain scored the tying goal from nearby: 1-1. There was enough time to make a comeback. Especially when FC Groningen was forced to continue with just ten men after a red card for Samir Memisevic. The defender from Bosnia Herzegovina skidded into Sinkgraven hard in the final minutes. The Ajacied, luckily, had jumped up when the Groningen player charged at him.
Ajax was unable to capitalize on their numeric advantage. Donny van de Beek came the closest to scoring the coveted second Ajax goal. But the substitute sent his shot into Padt’s fists. Schöne was unable to convert the rebound.
So Groningen- Ajax ended in a draw. The Amsterdam team thus took just minimal advantage of Feyenoord’s loss at Het Kasteel. The disappointment at the two lost points was much greater than the satisfaction at earning one. Ajax left a massive opportunity on the table to gain valuable points on the South Rotterdam team. After 25 rounds of play, Ajax remains four points behind Feyenoord. With nine games to go, the Eredivisie remains thrilling.