On Saturday evening, Ajax had an ideal dress rehearsal for their upcoming Champions League match against Auxerre. Martin Jol’s team was too strong for NAC Breda in the Amsterdam ArenA, defeating them 3-0. Highlights were El Hamdaoui’s beautiful goal, and Mido’s debut.
The 44th Ajax – NAC match was decided in the first half, a welcome occurrence given the upcoming Champions League match against Auxerre. It also became clear that their home loss against Utrecht was an isolated incident. Two weeks after that defeat, it was a different Ajax playing NAC. Without too much trouble, Ajax handily disposed of their opponents.
Ajax took the lead after fifteen minutes. Shortly after Suarez had tested keeper Ten Rouwelaar with a free kick, Jan Vertonghen sent a header in, 1-0. On a pass from Eyong Enoh, the Belgian leapt up above the rest and headed the ball convincingly past the keeper. After missing three more opportunities, Suarez assisted on the second goal. He passed to Mounir El Hamdaoui, who turned it into something great. With feeling, he lifted the ball over Ten Rouwelaar, who didn’t stand a chance. It was a moment reminiscent of the legendary Dennis Bergkamp.
André Ooijer had a spot on the squad. The 36 year old defender played instead of Toby Alderweireld, who was on the bench. Jol: “We didn’t bring in Ooijer just for the locker room. I thought it was necessary for him to play today, especially looking forward to the upcoming busy months.” In the injured Siem de Jong’s absence, midfield consisted of De Zeeuw-Lindgren-Enoh.
In the second half, De Zeeuw, Suarez and Lindgren all had opportunities to score the third goal. Their shots went into the side net, over, and against the goalie’s fists. With substitute Eriksen coming in, El Hamdaoui also came close to scoring. He wasn’t as successful as earlier, and his shot ended up hitting the crossbar.
Fifteen minutes later, things looked up. To thunderous applause, Mido made his Ajax debut. The 27 year old Egyptian was in Jol’s match selection for the first time, and he was directly rewarded with playing time. After playing for eight clubs, West Ham United being the last one, he once again wore the Ajax jersey after leaving in 2003. His return to Ajax meant that he wasn’t at the Ajax reunion, watching in the stands with many other former players. From a special stand, Stefan Petterson, Sjak Swart, Tijjani Babangida, Sunday Oliseh, Barry Hulshoff and Wim Suurbier watched the match. Leonardo, suspended by NAC for disciplinary reasons, sat in section 108 as a former Ajax player.
Freshly on the field, Mido had a hand in Ajax’s third goal. In the 79th minute, Suarez sent a free kick in, to the captain’s visible relief. Besides his hat trick last weekend playing with Uruguay against Indonesia, his goal – less performances against Feyenoord, Twente, AC Milan en FC Utrecht were bothering him. This goal against NAC did him, the man who can score anytime, anyplace, some good.
In the closing phase, Ajax didn’t suffer any damage, and the match against NAC had a certain feeling of being a dress rehearsal for Ajax – Auxerre. The French team’s equivalent ended in a 1-0 home defeat against Bordeaux. Jol: “I’m satisfied that we put the match against Utrecht behind us. We needed to.” The coach also expressed hope that he will be able to use De Jong on Tuesday. “Hopefully, he can play against Auxerre.”