After last week´s loss of points against Roda JC (2-2), Ajax has lost its second home game of the season to Willem II, 1-2. The Ajacieds were sitting pretty after Davy Klaassen brought the team to an early 1-0 lead after only 23 seconds. But before halftime, the Tilburg team took the lead thanks to goals by Falkenburg and Sol (2-1). After the break, the tying goal didn´t come, and Ajax is therefore still waiting for its first home win of the season.
¨The best eleven eleven will play, and I´m not taking Rostov into account¨, said a relaxed Peter Bosz at the press conference on the eve of Ajax – Willem II. However, the head coach was forced to make two changes to his starting line-up. True to tradition, two young talents were given these free starting spots. 20 year-old Andre Onana replaced Jasper Cillessen, who is being courted by FC Barcelona, and made his official debut in the ArenA. At midfield, Donny van de Beek took over from the slightly injured Nemanja Gudelj.
After youth player Precious Ugwu had held kept the ball in the air 2589 times for the Richard Witschge Bokaal, it was time to get serious. With an average age of 21 years, Ajax´s starting eleven was youthful. But greatness leads to greatness, and after only 23 seconds, Davy Klaassen scored with a header after a perfect pass from Anwar El Ghazi: 1-0. This resulted in both a lead, and a new record, which is the quickest goal ever scored in the Amsterdam ArenA.
After that brisk start, Ajax remained in control, but real opportunities were elusive. But not for Willem II. A shot by Bruno Andrade which went long served as a warning for the trouble that was to come. In the 30th minute, a Willem II counter landed at Erik Falkenburg´s feet, and he tied the score with a hard shot. Still fresh from scoring this tying goal, the Tilburg team struck again. Fran Sol took full advantage of a hole in Ajax´s defense and scored for a halftime lead, 1-2.
By bringing Daley Sinkgraven in after the break, Peter Bosz hoped to add a dash of creativity to the match. After a few seconds, Anwar El Ghazi came flying out of the starting blocks. But the goal didn´t find the Tilburg goal. The pressure remained, but the finishes always lacked precision. Ajax´s attacks lacked finess in the end and keeper Lamprou didn´t need to take action until the 70th minute.
In the last half hour, Ajax came knocking, but no real opportunities arose. Davinson Sanchez made two long-range attempts, but both shots by the Colombian defender landed in the stands. After five minutes extra time, referee Dennis Higler blew his whistle to signal the end of the game. The result was Willem II´s first ever Eredivisie win at Ajax.
From this Eredivisie loss, the team will need to shift its focus to the UEFA Champions League. This Ajax selection will need to make this switch quickly. On Wednesday evening, in Russia, the Ajacieds hope to have a fitting follow-up to the draw in Amsterdam (1-1). In this critical all-or-nothing game, the goal is crystal clear: to score at least once, and to keep a clean sheet. If this happens, the Ajacieds will qualify for Europe´s most important club football tournament.
Score summary: Ajax - Willem II 1-2 (1-2): 1. Klaassen 0-1, 28. Falkenburg 1-1, 31. Sol 1-2.
Starting line-up Ajax: Onana, Veltman, Sánchez, Riedewald, Dijks (44. Viergever), Bazoer (46. Sinkgraven), Klaassen, Van de Beek (73. Cassierra), El Ghazi, Traoré, Younes.