With a good second half against FC Groningen, Ajax narrowed the margin with PSV and widened the margin with Feyenoord on Sunday. Wesley Sneijder showed his team the way with the first goal and Nicolae Mitea and Ryan Babel followed his example. Babel celebrated his 18th birthday with two goals and Ajax won 4-0.
When Ajax started the match in Groningen, the side knew that PSV had lost to Roda JC on Saturday and that Feyenoord had lost to ADO Den Haag earlier in the day. The reigning champions could do good business on the last matchday of the calendar year: by defeating FC Groningen Ajax would be only five points behind PSV and AZ and six points ahead of number four Feyenoord.
Ajax started well and could have taken the lead after only seven minutes. Rafael van der Vaart took a good free kick but the ball hit the outside of the post. ,,The team was positioned well and we played aggressively, coach Ronald Koeman said of the first half. Mauro Rosales and Hatem Trabelsi combined to great effect on the right side, but offside and inaccurate finishing got in the way of earlier success for Ajax.
Right after halftime, the home sdie created some chances and were threatening before Hans Vonk's goal. Salmon shot the ball in the side netting after Vonk had surrendered the ball to the Groningen forward.
But three minutes later, Ajax scored. Julien Escudé sent a long pass to Ryan Babel who headed it to Wesley Sneijder. The midfielder had no trouble touching it past goalkeeper Roorda: 0-1.
Groningen's resistance had been broken. Ajax received more and more room to operate as the home side pressed forward. Mauro Rosales broke through on the right and found Nicolae Mitea on side. The Romanian left winger made it 0-2.
Ryan Babel got his birthday present fifteen minutes from the end when Mitea let the young striker score with a pass from the left. And a little later Rafael van der Vaart sent the now 18-year-old forward away with a nice long pass and Babel chipped it over the goalkeeper for 0-4.
The team of Ronald Koeman had closed off the first half of the competition on a positive note. Ajax still play in Europe after the winter break and in the last matches the young side lost no more points. ,,Yet, I am still happy that we get a break now, even though we played better in the last few weeks. I think that just about everybody is longing for the winter break'', Koeman said.