Ajax is the Eredivisie winter champion! The Ajacieds closed 2015 with a 2-1 win against De Graafschap on Sunday. In the sold-out Amsterdam ArenA, Riechedly Bazoer scored the winning goal in an amazing fashion. Arek Milik brought Ajax onto the winning track in the first half.
Shortly before kick-off of the last home game against De Graafschap, Ajax had received a gift from Nijmegen. Title contender Feyenoord had lost its earlier match to NEC, 3-1. This ensured that Ajax would go into the break as winter champions. PSV had drawn even with Ajax in terms of points on Saturday evening, but Ajax still had a game in hand until the 16:45 kick-off against the ‘Superboeren’.
Ajax did what was required in this last match of the 2015 calendar year against last-placed De Graafschap. This week, which had been dominated by last Thursday’s council members’ meeting, ended on a happy note. With the winter championship in hand, Ajax will start the second half of the 2015-2016 Eredivisie season in pole position. That position has resulted in no fewer than sixteen championships by the season’s end.
Expectations were high before the home game against De Graafschap. Would Ajax be able to extend their streak of goal-rich home games in the Eredivisie? Roda JC (6-0), SC Cambuur (5-1) and Heerenveen (5-2) were all soundly trounced. These duels helped Ajax build up its goal balance (+34), an added bonus. A new, preferably goal-heavy, win would be the ticket to head into the winter break as a satisified Eredivisie leader.
One week after the disappointment at Utrecht (1-0 loss), Ajax had something to prove. Ajax’s 2-0 cup win against De Graafschap earlier this season was a small psychological advantage. Frank de Boer couldn’t call on Amin Younes on Sunday. The German suffered an injury against FC Utrecht. Daley Sinkgraven was declared fit leading up to this match, but was not yet match fit The Assen native received some additional, valuable rest.
The Doetinchem team showed their lust for battle in the first half. The first opportunity of the match was for the visiting team. Former Ajacied Vincent Vermeij saw Andrew Driver’s pass sail just out of his reach. The home team thus escaped a deficit in the second minute of play. Ajax answered back with two attempts by Viktor Fischer. The Dane couldn’t get the ball past keeper Hidde Jurjus. Fischer’s team mate, Arek Milik, was able to do this in the 26th minute. The Pole sent a clean and hard header straight in, on a tailor-made free kick from Nemanja Gudelj.
Right before halftime, Fischer – again – saw De Graafschap goalie Jurjus make a save on his shot. Eight minutes after the second opportunity for Vermeij (shot into Cillessen’s hands), Ajax conceded a goal against. After a stopped attempt by Youssef El Jebli, Kristopher Vida scored from within the box: 1-1. Halfway through the final game of 2015, there was no sign of the much hoped for shower of goals. At best, Milik’s opening goal was the first drop in the bucket.
For a long time, the last-placed team held strong against the leader, who had won 33 points in the last 16 games. After missed shots by El Ghazi (side net) and Gudelj (wide free kick), substitute Vaclav Cerny came close to scoring on his first play. El Ghazi’s replacement was also stunted by keeper Jurjus, who was playing quite well.
The Superboers’ shining star finally had to concede at Bazoer’s shot. Twenty minutes before time, the midfielder received the rebound from Fischer’s attempt at his feet. Jurjus was completely hopeless against the volley. Bazoer scored a gem of a goal, his second of the season. Bazoer brought Ajax into the lead once again with his goal, 2-1.
This shot was enough to earn three points from this last match. With a three point lead on close competitor PSV, Ajax goes into the winter break as the Eredivisie winter champion 2015-2016. 17 rounds of play await the Amsterdam team in 2016, and their task will be to secure their 34th championship. The last seven times that Ajax has been the winter champion have resulted in the team winning the championship at the end of the year as well.