Ajax bounce back

Ajax bounce back

For most of the time, Ajax were the better team in the match against AZ, but in ten hectic minutes in the second half the home side lost control, allowing AZ to take the lead. Ajax bounced back, but had to settle for a draw: 2-2.

Ajax against AZ did become the spectacular match that football fans had hoped for; four goals, a lively game and an enthousiastic crowd in the Amsterdam ArenA. However, both teams ended up with one point, making league leaders PSV the winners of the weekend.

Ajax began strongly. The home side dominated in the first half, leading to the deserved opening goal by John Heitinga. Tom de Mul's free kick found both Klaas Jan Huntelaar and John Heitinga open before the goal. After combining cleverly, the latter fired the ball past goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus: 1-0.

Two former Ajax players brought their team past the home side in the second half. Defender Grétar Steinsson clearly fouled Urby Emanuelson, but referee Braamhaar let AZ play on. From the resulting attack, Shota Arveladze scored from up close. ,,Steinsson's foul was crucial in the match’’, said coach Henk ten Cate. ,,It was a clear foul. The referee should have blown his whistle, but he didn't. The next ten minutes we lost our direction.’’

The previously solid Ajax organization came apart. The self-assured attitude of the home side was replaced by apathy. The team from Alkmaar took advantage of the disorder. Minutes after Arveladze's goal, David Mendes da Silva gave his team the lead. When Maarten Stekelenburg let go of a shot by Jenner, the midfielder fired in the rebound: 1-2.

When Ajax regained their composure, the home side tried to turn the match around. Fifteen minutes before the end, Klaas Jan Huntelaar headed in a great cross by George Ogararu: 2-2. Ajax pressed on for the win, but had to settle for a draw in the end.

PSV's lead grew by two more points, but Ajax are still in contention for the title, said Ten Cate: ,,I am certainly not giving up. PSV can have a bad period as well. We are getting better, and we have had some bad luck recently. Ryan Babel has been out for eight weeks for example. As an athlete, you don't give up. Especially not before the winter break.’’