National champion Ajax has closed the 2011-2012 season in style with a 1-3 win against Vitesse. The win in the Gelredome in Arnhem was Ajax’s fourteenth in a row. The unbeaten streak continues into the new season.
After a few days filled with championship celebrations, Ajax needed to run off the champagne against Vitesse. At the outset, it wasn’t such a simple task. After a mediocre first half, in which Vitesse had the most, and best, opportunities, Ajax lay down the foundation for a win after the first half.
The fact that there was only one Arnhem goal (Nicky Hofs rounded off a great pass perfectly) before the break was mainly thanks to Jasper Cillessen. Kenneth Vermeer’s replacement proved to be a worthy stand in for steady keeper Vermeer with several good saves. Saves on attempts from Chanturia and Hofs were especially welcome. Former Ajax player Jan-Arie van der Heijden had hit the crossbar earlier. Vitesse had already earned a spot last week for the Europa League qualifying play-offs.
Dmitry Bulykin scored the tying goal for Ajax after the break: 1-1. The Russian centre forward’s header, from Ismaïl Aissati’s pass, made good. Cillessen and Bulykin, plus André Ooijer and Eyong Enoh, are the ones who ensured a good end to the season during this final match. Ooijer was given a fitting farewell in his last professional match. Vermeer, Vurnon Anita and Toby Alderweireld – all of whom normally have a spot in the starting eleven in De Boer’s championship team – were all given the night off and watched from the bench. Christian Eriksen, Derk Boerrigter and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson all watched from the stands.
“After a week like last week, you have to wait and see how the team will respond”, said Frank de Boer, looking back on the match against Vitesse. The coach was dissatisfied with what he saw in his team before the break, but was happier with the way Ajax played in the second half. “We finally controlled, and played good football, worthy of a champion.”
With this line-up, the Amsterdam team put on all of the finishing touches after the break. Vitesse was (somewhat) forced to play more defensively, although vigilance was required for outbreaks from the black and yellow clad home team. After Ajax had no trouble with Renato Ibarra’s shot (on the crossbar), it was André Ooijer who beat Piet Velthuizen from close by. It was a nice touch that it was the player who was playing his last professional game who scored the 1-2 goal for Ajax selection. It was Ooijer’s second goal of the season, after his goal in the crazy away game at FC Utrecht (6-4).
The Ajax players in the dug-out, the 1.200 fans in the sold out visitors’ stand, and Ooijer’s family in the stands clapped jubilantly when De Boer sent substituted his player, a few minutes before the end. The former international’s farewell had all of the signs of a fairy tale. Before the match, Ooijer received a colourful bouquet from Vitesse with a hug from coach John van den Brom and his assistant coach, Stanley Menzo. Ven den Brom’s Vitesse players received De Boer’s Ajax players on the field with a passage of honour.
But it was another defender, Jan Vertonghen, who helped Ajax to another goal. The Belgian’s departure seems imminent, and should it come so far, Vertonghen sealed the deal nicely. The Ajax captain made good ten minutes before time on a free kick. Vertonghen decided the final score of the last match of this ’11-’12 championship year, 1-3.
“It’s great that André scored in his last match. Ending with a goal and a win; the perfect way to end a career like his”, said De Boer. The fact that the Ajax coach’s own record was broken by Vertonghen didn’t faze De Boer. Once, as a defender, De Boer scored nine Eredivisie goals. Vertonghen, with his goal against Vitesse, reached ten goals in one season. This total makes him the defender with the most goals ever in the Eredivisie. “Jan really wanted to break my record. It the record’s going to be broken, it’s nice if it’s a great player like Jan who does it. Just like it’s great that we have one of the least passed defences, while we ourselves scored the most goals.”