Ajax had problems dealing with itself and with its opponent, Heracles Almelo. The turbulent times the club is going through affected the first half of the match. The 3-0 win over Heracles does mean Ajax is doing well in the Eredivisie.
The home game against Heracles Almelo was, in many respects, Ajax’ ‘first duel since …’. Two weeks ago the Amsterdam team suffered a defeat in the Eredivisie at the hands of ADO Den Haag. The valuable loss of points was followed by a period of international football and the chance of rehabilitation had to be put on hold. But it was of course mainly ‘the first’ since all the tumultuous developments of last Wednesday. That day Ajax’ board of directors and its supervisory board resigned. Ajax-Heracles was to show whether or not the selection’s players would be influenced by the battle within the organisation.
Manager Frank de Boer had to do without the central defending duo Jan Vertonghen (suspended) and Toby Alderweireld (injured). The two home grown Ajax players were replaced by the old hands Oleguer and André Ooijer. Keeper Kenneth Vermeer, also trained up at the Ajax Academy, celebrated his comeback on Ajax’ first team after months of recovery due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. International player Gregory van der Wiel was injured during last Saturday’s practice. The Ajax player unintentionally made way for Vurnon Anita who started the match on right back position. Daley Blind started on left back, while Mounir El Hamdaoui also celebrated his comeback.
In total there were no less than six Ajax players in Frank de Boer’s beginning line-up, who have been trained at the Academy. Including André Ooijer, who also started at the Ajax Academy, but took a long detour to get back to Ajax’ first team, the total even amounted to seven players. ‘Only’ four players were external. In short, these are numbers for a club to be proud of.
Of course Sunday afternoon was all about the score on the scoreboard. A day after the clash between FC Twente and PSV (2-0 victory for FC Twente) Ajax had an opportunity to lessen the gap between them and the team from Eindhoven. Things didn’t run smoothly against Peter Bosz’ squad, who won four out of the last five matches they played. The fifth match ended in a draw. Heracles scored merrily over the past weeks (eighteen goals in the last four games).
Both in the fist minute after the kick off and in the first minute after half time, Vermeer performed important saves. The replacement for the injured Maarten Stekelenburg presented himself, as ever, as a talented and reliable goalkeeper. Putting aside the rare interventions by Vermeer, it was Ajax who forced the opportunities. El Hamdaoui was unlucky in scoring too many times, while Miralem Sulejmani failed to cash in on both small and big opportunities. Because the home team’s tempo was too low and they played predictable football, particularly before half time, it gave the impression that it was experiencing the pressure from ‘off the pitch’ after all.
Nicolai Boilesen debuted just before half time, he replaced Daley Blind who was injured. Ajax didn’t score until the second half. After just under an hour of play, the 1-0 came about in a very lucky and even slapstick like manner. After Sulejmani’s free kick the ball landed on Oleguer’s head after being touched by Remko Pasveer’s glove. Whether the Catalan realised it himself or not, he alone knows: in any case the 1-0 flopped off Oleguer’s head and into the goal.
,,Pasveer gave us a leg up with that’’, manager Frank de Boer continued. ,,We utilised that fully. We need to do better though, we have to be bolder. Playing in triangles for instance, or daring to pass when they’re marked. The game was too faint-hearted at times.’’ The Ajax manager then complimented debutant Boilesen. ,,He played uninhibited and made a difference with his attacking intentions.”
Five minutes later Ajax’ 29th league match had been decided. Siem de Jong gave Christian Eriksen’s crossing pass enough velocity and direction to outwit Pasveer: 2-0. Ten minutes before the final whistle substitute Aras Özbiliz cashed in on the chance to score from a pass by debutant Boilesen. He couldn’t miss: 3-0.
With this 3-0 victory Ajax did exactly what was expected of them in these trying circumstances and the turbulent times the club is going through. The gap with PSV was reduced to two points. Frontrunner FC Twente is (a little) further ahead with five points. ,,In the end we dominated for a whole hour. That’s why this is a justified result, De Boer concluded. For the race for the title we remain dependent on FC Twente and PSV. First we have to win everything in order to remain focused on coming second. Then we have to wait and see if they drop any points.