Ajax won a sometimes choppy home game against Go Ahead Eagles. The Amsterdam team overcame the most difficult moments and defeated the lively and strong Deventer team, 3-1. Anwar El Ghazi, Arek Milik and Lasse Schöne gave the Ajax supporters reason to cheer in the Amsterdam ArenA.
Compared to Ajax’s last performance against FC Barcelona, Frank de Boer chose a dramatically different squad. The Deventer team, who has a history of never winning a point against Ajax in Amsterdam, met Stefano Denswil, among others, opposing them. The Zaandam native was a surprising replacement of captain Niklas Moisander. The Finn started this tenth Eredivisie game of 2014-2015 on the bench.
Newly fit Nicolai Boilesen’s return was less surprising. The Dane missed duels against FC Twente and FC Barcelona due to a concussion. Boilesen wore the captain’s band. Jairo Riedewald (midfield controller) and centre forward Arek Milik were the other newcomers into the squad. Anwar El Ghazi scored in Camp Nou on Tuesday when he came on as substitute and the forward was now part of the starting eleven Ajacieds. In addition to testing players in relatively new positions, the busy upcoming playing schedule was another reason that De Boer rotated his players.
“We want to wash away the hangover we got against Barcelona when we play Go Ahead Eagles”, said De Boer beforehand. The Amsterdam team was hopeless against the Catalan powerhouse in their UEFA Champions League game: 3-1. In terms of results, the match with Go Ahead offered a better perspective. The history between the teams left little doubt that a good result would be achieved. The Eagles recently got thrashed in the Amsterdam ArenA. After a scoreless first half, Ajax destroyed the Deventer team: 6-0.
Go Ahead Eagles are familiar with not winning points in the capital. The Deventer team had a boost of confidence thanks to last weeks’ win in the Ijssel derby, in front of their home crowd, in which they beat arch rival PEC Zwolle 3-2. Eagles that defeat Zwolle teams usually don’t have a problem with confidence. GAE coach Foeke Booy also warned beforehand that they had left ‘Olympic thoughts at home’. Based on drive and opportunism, Go Ahead would be just another regular opponent.
Ajax opened strongly against their visitors. Right winger Anwar El Ghazi struck after ten minutes on a rebound on a Milik shot that had hit the post: 1-0. The opening goal came in a time during which the home team had opportunity after opportunity. There was one-way traffic in the direction of Erik Cummin’s goal; one-way traffic with the occasional breakaway in the other direction. But Ajax failed to make good. Especially Milik had many opportunities. El Ghazi did too little with his opportunities, too. “I saw the best first 28 minutes of this season”, said Frank de Boer afterwards of a first half rife with opportunities. “After that, fear struck the team. It was only later in the match that we got a grip once again.”
Ajax paid the price for their lack of scoring effectiveness. Before the match had reached thirty minutes, Deniz Türuç hit the crossbar above Cillessen with his long-distance shot. A handful of minutes later, the Eagles fought their way to even Ajax. Fernando Lewis was launched, shook Ricardo van Rhijn off and shot the ball past Cillessen: 1-1. The tying goal was justified at that moment. Ajax refused to take a greater lead on its guests. The opportunistic Eagles, playing to their full potential, continued to fight more prominently into the match. The Amsterdam domination of the first half hour had become a distant memory and would only reappear deep into the second half.
It was Milik who showed the team the way. After a few Deventer attempts, it was the Pole who restored order. He showed his striker’s instinct by sending a crystal clear pass from Van Rhijn pass Cummins. Ten minutes after halftime, Ajax was finally in the lead again: 2-1. Sporadic threats came from the other side, but very few dangerous ones. Fifteen minutes before time, Lasse Schöne gave the lead some extra shine with his low-shot goal: 3-1. Ajax finally completed their task with the fresh reinforcements of Lerin Duarte, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and Niki Zimling.
This win won’t be a memorable one. However, the three point reward is more than welcome in Ajax’s stride to win the national title. “At the end of the day, what you want to see is the level from the first 28 minutes maintained for 90 minutes”, said De Boer. “That’s the goal.”