All the right ingredients were present for Ajax’s exciting 4-0 win against Heracles Almelo. In the great atmosphere of the ArenA, Siem de Jong and Marko Pantelic each scored twice. 2009-2010’s season finale will be played out on Sunday, May 2.
The focus was beating Heracles Almelo, but a close eye was kept on the halftime result of the FC Twente – Feyenoord match. In order to reduce the point deficit on the first placed team, Ajax first and foremost needed to defeat the team from Almelo. The battle between the ‘tukkers’ and Feyenoord in the Grolsch Veste was of significant, but secondary, importance. The duel in Enschede was alive in the press stands thanks to radios and television screens, which kept everyone informed of the various matches’ scores.
In the sold out ArenA, Siem de Jong led his team. The attacking midfielder delivered a 1-0 lead for Ajax after twenty minutes. De Jong’s clean, hard header, on a nice pass from Gregory van der Wiel, hit the mark. At 2.50pm, the big question was how Twente would react to news from Amsterdam of Ajax’s lead. The ‘tukkers’ themselves didn’t score until shortly before halftime, on a goal by Blaise N’Kufo. “We knew that Heracles wanted to score early. I was very pleased that Siem scored after 19 minutes, 58 seconds”, said Ajax coach Martin Jol. “And, once you’re ahead at home, you know that it’s going to be tough for any opponent in this stadium. But Heracles is a good team.”
De Jong proved himself to be an even sharper shooter than the public had already seen. Top scorer Luis Suarez sent the ball arching over Martin Pieckenhagen, and it landed by De Jong. The midfielder sent his header, from a very difficult angle, into the net once again: 2-0. In passing, De Jong scored Ajax’s one hundredth competition goal for 2009-2010. Eight minutes later, the halftime score from Twente was reluctantly taken note of by the fifty thousand spectators in the sunny ArenA.
Heracles Almelo had some small opportunities, and a few bigger ones. In the opening minutes, defender Mark Looms saw his attempt go wide. In the same minute, former Ajax player Darl Douglas had a better chance with an open shot, but it went wide as well. Marko Pantelic could, and should, have assured his team of a third goal in the first half. Dennis Rommendahl’s perfect pass seemed to be a sure goal for the Serb. But Pantelic’s aim was too sharp, and the ball sailed wide.
But Pantelic made up for his missed shot, after a half hour of play. And how. Just like right defender Van der Wiel, left back Vurnon Anita also came up for the attack. His pass was scooped over Pieckenhagen with a sublime curve by the forward. Pantelic kept an admirably cool head, between two opponents. Immediately after his assist, Anita was pulled to the sidelines, and Urby Emanuelson, recovered from his ankle injury, played the last half hour. After adding Ajax’s 101st goal to his name, Pantelic promptly added the 102nd four minutes later. A header by the exceptional De Jong was once again the origin of an Ajax goal. The ball arrived to the Ajax forward, who made good on his second attempt. The Pantelic – Nicolas Lodeiro substitution was one for the fans. A distinction that De Jong seemed to deserve, based on his strong play and two goals. Instead, he was honoured at the end of the game as Ajax Player of the Match.
“We did well today”, decided Jol. “The end score could also have been 7-0 or 8-0. Winning was our only option today.”
After FC Twente’s 2-0 win over a mediocre Feyenoord, the tension remains until the very last round, on May 2. Ajax will play at NEC that Sunday, and FC Twente will defend their lead at NAC. Ajax continues to put pressure on the leader. It will undoubtedly be a nerve racking afternoon of football on May 2, with the championship at stake. Next to this, the KNVB Cup’s double face off between Ajax and Feyenoord, on April 25 and May 6, will be the cherry on the cake.