It wasn’t fancy, but Ajax did their duty against NEC in the Amsterdam Arena, beating the visitors by a satisfactory margin. Luis Suarez put Ajax in the lead during the first half’s extra time, scoring his eighteenth competition goal of the season. After the break, Siem de Jong and Mitchell Donald topped it off: 3-0.
Both Ajax, ranked third in the Eredivisie, and NEC, ranked second to last, were eager to wash away the bitter aftertaste of their games last weekend with a victory in the Amsterdam ArenA. NEC had lost in the final stages against FC Twente 3-4, after Wiljan Vloet’s team was, unfairly, down to ten men. And Ajax was completely dominated in their match against Utrecht FC, losing 2-0.
But Ajax couldn’t do much in the first half. NEC decided to dig their heels in and hope for a quick attack, making it easy for the offensive Ajax to keep the pressure on their guests for the first half hour – albeit without creating any good opportunities. The first chance was for Siem de Jong, who came in after fifteen minutes for an injured Ismaïl Aissati. Aissati was hurt by a knee to his thigh, but is expected to recover in time for the game against Anderlecht. In the 17th minute, De Jong appeared on the right side, in front of Babos’ goal, but the keeper made the save. The first half hour didn’t see many opportunities, although Vertonghen took a shot in the 29th minute which landed in the side net. As Ajax lacked the creativity to break through the Nijmegen team’s defensive approach, NEC became more daring. The first danger they posed came after half an hour, when referee Bramhaar awarded them a free kick from about twenty meters out. El-Akchaoui’s shot went into the wall. Ajax finally broke through the staunch defence in extra time. Pantelic headed Demy de Zeeuw’s corner, allowing Vertonghen to lay it off to Suarez from the back line. Suarez, who hit the post just before, didn’t miss: 1-0.
“1-0 came at the right time, just before the break”, said Jol afterwards. “We had lots of good intentions, but they didn’t materialise. We couldn’t bring much strength or the energy to the match. We didn’t even look fresh in transition. Fortunately for us, NEC wasn’t able to capitalise on this.”
The second half was more exciting. Both Jol and NEC coach Vloet were more satisfied with their respective teams than before the break. When Ajax scored again on Siem de Jong’s shot from from the edge of the penalty area, the game was as good as over. “The goal came just when I thought that we were about to make something happen”, said Vloet regretfully afterwards. “We obviously didn’t have an “over my dead body” approach, since the second goal came much too easily.”
Mitchell Donald’s excellent goal brought the score to 3-0 with twelve minutes left in the game. “It was a very businesslike win”, summarized Jol shortly. And that said it all. It can be added that after this match, Ajax has held NEC scoreless in the Amsterdam ArenA for 444 consecutive minutes.