Ajax’s away game against FC Twente seemed to be heading for a stalemate after 90 minutes’ regular playing time. In extra time, however, things went south for the Amsterdam team. After a red card for Nick Viergever, Mateusz Klich scored the winning goal in extra time, on a penalty: 1-0. Ajax ‘s undefeated streak of 20 games in a row thus comes to an abrupt end.
Three days after a very young Ajax posted a 1-1 draw at Standard Liège, the Ajacieds turned their attention to an Eredivisie game in the east. The UEFA Europa League stage was swapped for the Eredivisie’s. With a change like that, as has been customary in the last few weeks, came a change in line-up. In Enschede, Peter Bosz called on his usual, trusted first choice. The fact that there isn’t such a big quality difference between the players in his selection is reassuring and a true luxury.
Four Ajacieds stood out in the squad. Davy Klaassen returned after his suspension, which had forced him to miss the FC Groningen match from last week. However, the captain had been present for the Standard game. Hakim Ziyech faced his former team for the first time since moving to Ajax. Mitchell Dijks was in for the injured Daley Sinkgraven. And finally, Anwar El Ghazi was on the field at kick-off for the first time since August 20th. The right winger had proven his scoring chops on Thursday with a beautiful goal in Liège. On Sunday, the forward unfortunately made less of an impact.
A nice highlight of this 51st edition of FC Twente – Ajax was Justin Kluivert’s presence in the selection. Kluivert jr – he’s former striker Patrick’s son – made his debut in Bosz’s selection on Sunday. Several Ajacieds were most likely rooting for young Kluivert to make his debut in this match, at the tender age of 17 years and 220 days old. However, this didn’t happen be on this particular Sunday.
Shortly after leader Feyenoord had defeated AZ in Alkmaar 0-4, Twente and Ajax kept each other in check for the entire afternoon. The clubs were well matched. Prior to the break, Lasse Schöne’s fre kick and Ziyech’s header both disappeared wide of Nick Marsman’s goal. Amin Younes failed to bring his team into the lead right before halftime. The left winger rounded off a beautiful dribble that went just wide of the post. The ‘Tukkers’ replied with shots by Mateusz Klich and Dylan Seys. The latter came close to scoring with a spectacular volley; but his attempt seared over André Onana’s goal.
Shortly after the start of the second half, Ajax came extremely close to taking the lead. Twente blundered at kick-off and Kasper Dolberg was unwittingly brought into a great position. The Dane’s shot went wide by a hair. The excitement build as time went by. It was the Amsterdam team who had to score in order to remain on Feyenoord’s trail.
But even with substitute Mateo Cassierra (in for Dolberg), the Amsterdam team wasn’t able to pull away from their adversaries from Twente. They were simply unable to pull the trigger in René Hake’s compact team. But even worse; the Ajacieds suffered a significant setback in extra time. Nick Viergever was the unwitting catalyst, when he slid after a pass from Bersand Celina, and swatted the ball out of his own goal area. Referee Dennis Higler had no choice but to send Viergever off with his second yellow card. FC Twente was also awarded a shot from the penalty spot. Klich was able to make good on this golden opportunity; the Pole shot the ball coolly past Onana. It was a goal with dire consequences: 1-0.
One week prior to the top competition game against PSV, Ajax had a bad afternoon in Twente. After 16 rounds of play, Ajax must make up three points against Feyenoord. PSV gained ground on the Amsterdam team thanks to a 1-0 win against Go Ahead Eagles. The difference between Ajax and the Eindhoven team is just three points. This will ensure a spectacular final match of the first half of the Eredivisie season. One that, hopefully, will end well for the Ajacieds.
“This is an unnecessary loss”, said a disappointed Bosz in retrospect. The Ajax trainer blamed his own team’s shortcomings. “When you get these opportunities, you need to score. Especially against an opponent that plays so far back in its own half. Those are the moments in which you can get ahead. But we shouldn’t act as though this is a disaster. Let’s not be dramatic. But this is a costly loss of points in the race for the title.”