Ajax qualified for the fourth round of the KNVB Cup on Wednesday evening. Ajax was too strong for host ONS Sneek and won 0-2. Both goals were scored in the last fifteen minutes. Viktor Fischer and Stefano Denswil, making his debut, scored for Ajax. The draw for the next round takes place on Thursday evening.
The cup match against ONS Sneek was anything but an easy game in passing for Ajax. The top class Saturday league team from Sneek had been the author of an upset in the second round of cup play when they eliminated the professionals from Excelsior. On Wednesday evening, the Fries team held its own against Ajax for 74 minutes. Finally, it was Viktor Fischer who broke the stalemate fifteen minutes before the end. After a Danish combination with Christian Eriksen, the forward helped Ajax reach the next round of the cup tournament.
Fischer was one of the young guns who started in the basis. Ruben Ligeon, Joël Veltman, Stefano Denswil and Danny Hoesen were also present at kick-off. 19 year old Denswil made his official debut for Ajax 1in this Friesland match. Logically, five of the regular basis players were absent in Sneek: Niklas Moisander, Ricardo van Rhijn, Christian Poulsen, Kenneth Vermeer and Siem de Jong.
The Friesian water sports town was already caught up in the cup game against Ajax. In a week that saw AZ (cup match against SZW Sneek) and Queen Beatrix (new theater’s opening) visit Sneek, the national champion’s visit was definitely the highlight there. Within a matter of days, the Zuidersportpark was converted into a small stadium for 7.500 spectators. This was an unheard of number for the Saturday league’s number 2 team, which normally draws far fewer visiting fans. The local businesses also cashed in on the fever around Ajax’s visit. Leading up to the cup match, special game scarves, Bereburger bottles and cakes appeared. Even the town crier got into the mix and was there to call out the line-ups.
Before the break, it was Hoesen who came closest to scoring the opening goal. After half an hour of play, he sent the ball onto the crossbar from a Fischer pass. Other than that, there were very few opportunities. Under captain Eyong Enoh’s lead, Ajax wasn’t able to create much danger. Leo de Wagt had a chance for Sneek, but his free kick flew high over Jasper Cillessen’s goal.
The patience of the 228 Ajax fans who had made the trip was tried well into the second half. ONS forward Jurjen Bosch created the most danger as the first Ajax goal remained elusive. Eighteen minutes before the end, Ruben Ligeon seemed poised to break the stalemate, but because substitute Christian Eriksen touched his shot, the goal was declared invalid due to the offside rule. But they made good on the next attack. Fischer’s winning goal brought relief to Ajax.
The home team made one last farfetched attempt by bringing in ex professional Mark de Vries (from Leeds United and sc Heerenveen, among others). With the towering forward in the centre of the offense, coach Jan Vlap’s team was hoping to pull off an upset. But it was Denswil who finally put an end to any doubts. Two minutes before time, he crowned his debut with a spot on free kick: 0-2. And although the announcer confused him with Ryan Babel, it was indeed Denswil who, following Ajax tradition, scored in his first match. It was a great story in a match which otherwise would have quickly been forgotten – except, perhaps, in Sneek.
“We won. That’s what counted tonight”, said Frank de Boer afterwards. “In addition to that, I was able to give some of the players a break. Of course we wanted to score quickly and often, but in the end we needed to be patient. Fortunately, we have several guys who did well, especially Denswil, who played a good first game. He stayed calm with the ball and constantly looked for solutions. He did a great job.”