Ajax easily qualified for the round of sixteen in the KNVB Cup tournament on Tuesday by defeating ASWH, 4-1. A highlight of the cup evening was keeper Mickey van der Hart’s official Ajax debut.
How to defeat ASWH? Coach Frank de Boer gave keeper Mickey van der Hart a starting spot, and thus his official Ajax 1 debut. The keeper, from Ajax’s own academy, saw a slightly modified line-up in front of him. Centre forward Danny Hoesen and right back Ruben Ligeon were the most surprising names on the roster. The defender didn’t enjoy his return, from an injured toe, for very long. Ligeon sustained another injury early on (sprained right ankle) and was replaced by Ricardo van Rhijn. In addition to Van der Hart, keeper Peter Leeuwenburgh also had a spot in the match selection. Kenneth Vermeer had kept the previous evening with Jong Ajax and sustained a knee injury, and Jasper Cillessen got the night off. De Boer gave his up and coming talents the chance to show their stuff in Ajax 1; Stanislav Lobotka and Elton Acolatse also started (and remained) on the bench.
The third round duel of the KNVB Cup tournament went according to expectations for the first twenty minutes. Ajax pressured, found an occasional gap in the South Holland team’s defense, and, thanks to Viktor Fischer, took the lead. The Dane handily outplayed the ASWH defense and scored a beautiful goal with his right foot: 1-0. This was the first success against a team which was focused on defending. The Saturday class team understandably gambled on the home team losing focus and getting sloppy early on.
Fischer’s opening goal was eagerly welcomed; three days earlier, an early goal against RKC Waalwijk had been sorely needed in the Amsterdam ArenA, which resulted in a loss of points (0-0). The one thousand ASWH fans who had made the trip saw their team pull even of Ajax less than ten minutes later. Centre forward Michael van Dommelen converted ASWH’s first attempt on goal into an actual goal. The club top scorer scored a sensational goal in the 29th minute 1-1. However special Van Dommelen’s goal was is clear from the statistics. The last time that an amateur club scored in an official cup match on Ajax’s home turf was 54 years ago. That honor was for Watergraafsmeer in April 1959, who eventually lost to 2-1 in Ajax’s former home, de Meer.
The visiting club from Hendrik – Ido- Ambacht was special. Ajax has only played one other official cup match in the ArenA against amateurs. IDI’19 didn’t manage to score on October 28, 1998, but suffered nine goals against during that cup match. Van Dommelen’s ‘historic’ goal provided his tea with a much needed dose of self-confidence. Would this be a unique cup upset? Former professional player Michel Langerak’s team got the answer to this question quickly. After chances for Davy Klaassen (long) and Fischer (wide), Hoesen helped Ajax to its second goal. Stefano Denswil’s pass, a tailor- made ball through the air, was almost as beautiful as the finish. Hoesen controlled it in one fluid motion and sent the ball efficiently past Doedée: 2-1.
Siem de Jong removed ASWH’s last hopes for an upset at the break. The captain, who was somewhat unfortunate in his playing on Tuesday, shot his team to a 3-1 lead before halftime. This cup meeting, in a 17.861 spectator – strong ArenA, was going much better for Ajax than the cup match against FC Volendam had. Ajax finished this job without any extra time. The Hendrik – Ido- Ambachters were most likely worn out in the second half. With Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and Thulani Serero coming in for De Jong and Lucas Andersen, Ajax was able to go for a fourth goal in a fairly laid – back manner. Ten minutes after coming in, Sigthórsson scored the 4-1 goal. The assist was stunning once again. Fischer played to the running Icelander perfectly and deeply, after which Sigthórsson coolly finished.
“I’m pleased with the first half”, said Frank de Boer about the meeting. “We played at a good pace and created opportunities. The goal against was a shame, Micky couldn’t really do anything about it. I’m not very satisfied with the second half; we didn’t manage to close the deal. That was our fault. We weren’t focused enough. That was especially a shame for the 18.000 fans who continued to cheer us on. If only for them, you have the obligation to create opportunities.”
Thus Ajax’s continuing in the KNVB Cup tournament was never is serious jeopardy. Debut-making Van der Hart didn’t have much work to do, but it was a successful debut for him nonetheless. On Thursday evening, Ajax will know who their opponent will be on 17, 18 or 19 December for the last cup match of 2013. More importantly though, is the upcoming match on Saturday evening. At 18:45, title contender Vitesse will be waiting in the Amsterdam ArenA. “We need to forget about this 4-1 win quickly, watch the draw on Thursday, and focus on Vitesse”, said De Boer.