Ajax – FC Groningen came to a familiar conclusion on Sunday afternoon. Six of the last seven games between these two teams have ended with a score of 2-0. Davinson Sánchez (header) and Hakim Ziyech (penalty) secured the win with their goals.
After PSV’s loss of points earlier on (0-0 at Roda JC) and Feyenoord’s convincing win in its city derby against Sparta (6-1), Ajax knew that winning was essential. On one hand, it needed to increase its lead against the Eindhoven team. On the other hand, it was important to keep up with Feyenoord, with whom Ajax shares first place in the Eredivisie. On the day before Saint-Nick’s birthday – he is an Ajax fan, as he has admitted on Ajax.nl – the Ajacieds didn’t give away any gifts in the Amsterdam ArenA.
Ajax is on a white-hot streak. Peter Bosz’s team is now undefeated in 18 games, in several competitions. Rostov was the last opponent to surprise Ajax. Since that fateful evening in August in Rostov, so much has happened. Bosz has completed his Ajax puzzle. With a relatively steady squad and a trusted, broad bench, Ajax’s performance in the Eredivisie, UEFA Europa League and KNVB Cup tournament has been outstanding. In summary: Ajax is as solid as a house under Peter Bosz.
Perhaps, for that reason, it would be interesting to see how the team would do with two relative newcomers on the squad. Captain Davy Klaassen was forced to watch after a suspension earned in the game against Heerenveen (0-1 win). Bertrand Traoré was unavailable due to a thigh injury. Donny van de Beek was Klaassen’s replacement at midfield. Bosz brought Vaclav Cerny in at the spot that has mostly been Traoré’s this season.
Where Van de Beek made his presence felt both on the left and right flank, Cerny was much less prominent. Van de Beek often swapped positions with Hakim Ziyech, whereby Lasse Schöne was in the controlling role. Although he had been very valuable one week ago in Heerenveen (assisting Davy Klaassen’s winning goal), Van de Beek wasn’t as prominent this time, but still earned full marks for his performance. Cerny was replaced by Anwar El Ghazi after one hour. The forward played his first minutes since getting kicked out of the A selection and spending one month with the Ajax Reserves as a disciplinary measure. The last Eredivisie match that El Ghazi played in was on October 23, 2016.
The 37th edition of Ajax – FC Groningen was unspectacular, but the Ajacieds escaped the afternoon unscathed. Although the home team escaped damage when Yoëll van Nieff’s shot hit the post, shortly after the break. Ajax was nursing a 1-0 lead at that point, thanks to an early opening goal by Davinson Sánchez. The Colombian extended a corner by Lasse Schöne with a header in the ninth minute, passing goalie Sergio Padt. It was the 1200th Eredivisie goal in the freezing cold ArenA since the stadium’s inauguration in 1996. Another nice piece of trivia: Ajax has now scored in 40 straight games (in all competitions). The Amsterdam team are close to beating their own club record: 42 games with goals scored between December 1996 and March 1998.
Around ten minutes after his entrance, El Ghazi had all eyes on him, including referee Serdar Gözübüyük’s. The referee punished a foul by Albert Rusnak on the Ajacied with a penalty. Ziyech sent the ball past Padt: 2-0. The former Ajacied, who was keeping well, kept damage to a minimum for the Groningen team who was playing well-grouped football. In the final minutes, Gözübüyük once again accorded a penalty kick, this time after Etiënne Reijnen had held onto Younes’ jersey. Padt was able to stop the shot from Younes. In the reboud (shot by Van de Beek) Padt didn’t allow a third goal against.
Thus the 37th edition of Ajax – FC Groningen once again ended in a 2-0 win. The Groningen team has now failed to score in the Amsterdam ArenA for the eighth straight time. FC Groningen has never won in the Amsterdam ArenA. The lead on PSV is now six points. Four days before the last European game of 2016, on Thursday at Standard Luik, Feyenoord and Ajax share first place of the Eredivisie.