This Sunday Ajax finally took three points from a league match against FC Utrecht. Three and a half years after its last defeat of Utrecht, Ajax sealed a simple 3-0 victory in the home ArenA. Thulani Serero, Davy Klaassen and Danny Hoesen all hit the target. Captain Siem de Jong was substituted halfway through the first half, as a precaution for hamstring pains.
In the pre-match build up for the match against FC Utrecht, the word ‘angstgegner’ (bogey opponent) often was mentioned. Ajax had indeed not managed to beat Utrecht in a league match since February 28th, 2010. In a period during which Ajax still only carried two stars on its jersey and Martin Jol served as manager. In the next six matches, in both Utrecht and Amsterdam, Ajax left many points behind. The negative home balance of the last years (1-2, 1-2 and 1-1) required re-addressing. This Sunday afternoon seemed like a good moment as Utrecht – plagued by injuries – had only gathered one point and one goal out of its last four matches. Ajax on the other hand had won all four home matches of the season. And a fifth followed, ending the negative trend against Utrecht.
Mike van der Hoorn was in the starting line-up against his former club. The 20-year old defender had been a protagonist around the much debated penalty awarded to Balotelli, last Tuesday in the Champions League fixture against AC Milan. Frank de Boer confided in Van der Hoorn five days later – from the start – as a replacement for the injured Moisander. His peer Stefano Denswil accompanied him in the heart of defense, averaging the back line age at 21 years old.
Besides Moisander, Ajax also missed Lerin Duarte. The midfielder had impressed against Milan, but left the field with an ankle injury. His spot was occupied by Davy Klaassen, who responded with a second half goal in his eighth Eredivisie appearance. The midfielder was in the right place following a blistering shot by Denswil that goalkeeper Ruiter could not handle. The Utrecht keeper let the ball loose , after which it was an easy tap-in for Klaassen.
Klaassen’s goal was followed on by Thulani Serero. The South-African had given Ajax the lead just before half-time. Ajax was actually lucky not to have been trailing the score until then. Ex-Ajax player Cedric van der Gun could have given the visitors a dream start. On the 2 minute mark, he had escaped towards the Ajax goal, fed by Jens Toornstra, to miss the target defended by Cillessen. It was exemplary for the first quarter of an hour, during which Utrecht had a few more opportunities. Frank de Boer commented on this: “I was not pleased with the first 25 minutes. Utrecht created three threats, amongst which one super-chance. After that, we slowly gained control, even though we did not create much real danger. But more importantly: we did not give any more chances away. Thanks to that it became a question of patience, which was rewarded in the end.”
Serero came onto the field on replacing Siem de Jong after 25 minutes. The Ajax captain had light hamstring troubles, and was substituted out of precaution. As with the 2-0, Ajax’ first goal was the result of weak defending by Utrecht and an alert reaction of an Ajax player. The visitors were unable to clear the ball out of the penalty box, and Serero was quick to finish from close range. He was rewarded with the “Ajax Player of the match” title. De Boer: “Serero was always an option to play into. He played well and determined the rhythm of the team. He stood in well for de Jong.”
De Boer used the 2-0 on the score board to give minutes to Lucas Andersen and Danny Hoesen. Andersen brought freshness to the Ajax attack with good movements. Hoesen replaced Kolbeinn Sigthórsson ten minutes before time, and celebrated with a goal in added time. The center forward cut across Kay Heerings and drove the ball home at the near post of keeper Ruiter. It was the fitting end to an afternoon during which Ajax finally settled its accounts with a feared opponent.