On Sunday, Ajax finally walked off the field after an away game at FC Utrecht as the winning team. Lasse Schöne’s beautiful long shot was worth its weight in gold, ending an eight-year dry spell. With the 0-1 win in Galgenwaard, Ajax remains hot on the trail of leader Feyenoordl.
Ajax met a familiar face with FC Utrecht’s striker Richairo Zivkovic. The loaned-out Ajax player formed an offensive pair with Sebastian Haller. Zivkovic nearly hurt his real club with a shot onto the crossbar after half an hour. The forward was sent a taylor-made pass by Nacer Barazite, after which the Amsterdam team miraculously escaped going one goal down. One minute before, Joël Veltman, from a corner, had sent a header just wide of the Utrecht goal.
Up until Zivkovic’s shot, the Ajacieds and Utrecht were evenly matched, despite more possession for the visitors; after the centre forward’s attempt, FC Utrecht – Ajax went in all directions in the last fifteen minutes. It was although the former FC Groningen and Willem II player had ignited the fuse in a powder keg under the tumultuous Galgenwaard. Sloppy loss of possession by Davy Klaassen led to a major opportunity for Barazite. The Utrecht player’s shot disappeared over the goal via Nick Viergever. Two minutes later, Haller found keeper Andre Onana in his way.
Ajax- wearing mourning bands to pay tribute to former Ajacied and club man Ger van Mourik, who had passed away – responded in the closing minutes via Amin Younes (low shot) and Ziyech. The Amsterdam team’s play-maker fired a treacherous shot onto keeper David Jensen, who was replacing the injured Robbin Ruiter. The Dane handled the ball poorly and was fortunate that the attempt disappeared over his goal’s crossbar.
Ajax, playing with the same line-up as last week against PEC Zwolle, knew beforehand that only a win would suffice in order to remain on the trail of leader Feyenoord. The Rotterdam team had won a close game on Saturday against Willem II: 1-0. The statistics show how tough it can be to win in Utrecht. At kick-off, FC Utrecht had been undefeated in ten straight Eredivisie games. The last Ajax win in Utrecht, prior to Sunday, dated back to March 1, 2009. Jan Vertonghen and Gregory van der Wiel had helped then-coach Marco van Basten’s team to win that afternoon. After eight years, it was high time for an Ajax win in the ‘Domstad’.
After the break, the tide turned in Ajax’s favour. But the remainder of the match, just like the closing minutes before the break, was nerve-wracking. For example, what about the penalty that the Amsterdam team was awarded after Barazite’s hands on a scoring attempt by Younes? Lasse Schöne took the ball in the 61st minute and…missed from twelve yards out! This was the third missed penalty by an Ajacied in the Eredivisie this season. The last time that three Ajacieds missed three of those in one Eredivisie season was during 1995-1996, which happens to be the football year in which Ajax reached the Champions League final.
Matthijs de Ligt and Justin Kluivert – who had been last week’s revelation against PEC Zwolle – were meant to give Ajax a new impulse in the final fifteen minutes. Davinson Sánchez and Anwar El Ghazi retreated to the sidelines. This didn’t result in many opportunities for the Amsterdam team. In fact, Giovanni Troupée seemed poised to help the home team take the lead. Ten minutes before time, the Utrecht player fired a massive opportunity over the goal.
Ajax escaped unscathed and, two minutes later, made a successful go for three points. It was actually Schöne who was Ajax’s savior. After a free kick from the right had been turned away, the ball rolled to the Danish veteran’s feet. Schöne didn’t hesitate – he had no time to – and shot flawlessly into the mark from twenty meters out. The ball disappeared cleanly into the right corner: 0-1. Schöne scored his fourth Eredivisie goal of the season; the same number of goals that he scored in all of last season.
With Schöne’s beautiful goal, Ajax finally put an end to the odd series of poor results in and against Utrecht. The victory from March 1, 2009, finally got a fitting continuation.