Ajax is still in pole position for the national championship. The Ajacieds were the big winner of the 33rd round of play with a 4-0 win against FC Twente. Contender PSV also celebrated a win by the same margin against SC Cambuur (6-2), thus leaving the goal balance of plus six in Ajax’s favour unchanged. Ajax left the field after a well-deserved lap of honour. The title is within reach!
Ajax scored three times in the last eleven minutes. The simmering ArenA burst out in a joyous explosion in a pre-championship mode. Of course, nothing has been decided yet, but a win next week in Doetinchem at De Graafschap should suffice. PSV goes into the last round of play – away at PEC – having to bridge a gap of six goals.
The fears that a big PSV win would damage Ajax’s chances were thus unfounded, mainly because Ajax itself posted a big win. Vaclav Cerny opened the score in the first half. In the final minutes, it was Mike van der Hoorn, Viktor Fischer and Amin Younes who scored the critical goals.
“I’m very pleased with the result”, said Frank de Boer. “We didn’t worry about what had happened in Eindhoven. We needed to make sure that we won. We did that and it’s great that it happened with four goals.”
The Ajax coach had made a few surprising changes to his squad. Cerny got the nod for the right winger spot and Thulani Serero once again was chosen above Riechedly Baser. Kenny Tete replaced the suspended Mitchell Dijks. This were the three changes made after the win at Heerenveen ten days ago.
Focus on own duel
Leading up to the last home game of the season, De Boer had already emphasized that Ajax needed to remain focussed on its own matches. The halftime score between PSV and Cambuur should not be of any influence in the ArenA. Only if the situation in the match permitted would Ajax think of their goal balance.
Ajax was sharp at the start, but after about fifteen minutes, the Amsterdam team’s performance lost some of its conviction. The strikers of both teams are the ones who created danger in the beginning. Arek Milik’s free kick and header were stopped by Twente keeper Nick Marsman. Zakaria El Azzouzi also announced himself twice. The striker has been loaned out by Ajax to Twente in order to gain experience.
De Boer had expressed satisfaction concerning the striker’s development and hoped that El Azzouzi would have a quiet game. In a certain sense, he did. By missing two opportunities, he ended up being inadvertently helpful to the club with which he is under contract.
The match was locked up for a long time, until the 37th minute when Cerny scored, seeming out of nowhere, and brought the ArenA to its feet. Joël Veltman played an important part in the goal. The right back relieved Jerson Cabral of the ball and passed to Cerny. The Czech had a free field before him, ran up past his opponent and sent a shot, with his lesser right foot, right into the goal.
Cabral had the opportunity a few minutes later to make up for his mistake by evening the game up for Twente. The winger was free on the right side of the penalty kick area and decided, to Hakim Ziyech’s fury, to go for the play himself. Twente’s star had been standing by the second post, completely free. Ziyech missed an opportunity of his own from a great position a minute later.
Midway through the game, Ajax was ahead 1-0 and, in Eindhovern, PSV led SC Cambuur by the same margin (3-2). This was to everyone’s satisfaction.
Opportunity for more
Ajax had a lively start to the second half as well. It was clear: the Amsterdam team was after a bigger lead. Not only to put the nails on Twente’s coffin, but mainly because of the neck to neck race with PSV. The Ajacieds just needed a bit more luck. This was especially true when Nick Viergever had an opportunity ten minutes after the break. The defender, who had come up, controlled a beautiful long ball from Younes and whisked over Marsman, who had come out. But the post stood in the way of a goal.
Ajax came close to scoring two more times, both at long range. Marsman saw a shot from Veltman skim just past the upper corner, and made a save, with some difficulty, on an attempt by Younes. Due to the slim one-goal lead, everyone was on their guard, especially for the talented Ziyech. The left-footed player fired onto the Ajax goal twenty minutes before time, but Jasper Cillessen made an amazing save.
In the meantime, PSV had increased its lead to 5-2, and Ajax sorely needed to increase its own lead, too. The crowd was treated to just that, as Ajax scored three goals between the 80th and 86th minute. On a pass from Younes, Mike van der Hoorn scored on a header for the 2-0 goal, which was almost immediately followed by the 3-0 goal on a low shot by Viktor Fischer. And as if more was needed, Younes scored the 4-0 goal with a stunning sizzler in the upper corner.