Heracles versus Ajax was like a book with a difficult first chapter but a happy ending. Four days after the grudge match against Inter, Ajax had struggled in the first half with a freely playing Heracles. But Klaas Jan Huntelaar, youngster Michael Timisela and sub Ryan Babel turned an early deficit into a 1-3 win in Almelo.
Ajax, depleted with injuries to several key players and therefore forced to play in an unusual lineup that included the inexperienced defender Michael Timisela (who had just played 8 minutes in one match for Ajax 1) and 17-year old Jeffrey Sarpong, had to leave the initative to Heracles in the first 30 minutes. It took the home side no more than 15 minutes to take the lead. Mika Nurmela moved through the Ajax defence and at the last moment found Thijs Sluijter who put it in from close range: 1-0.
,,The first 30 minutes were pretty poor'', said coach Danny Blind. ,,Heracles deserved to take the lead.''
A tactical change in the Ajax ranks finished the home side's dominance of the match.Markus Rosenberg, who began on the left wing, moved more to the middle, closer to Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and Mauro Rosales and Jeffrey Sarpong manned the flanks. At the close of the first half, it lead to the equaliser. A dry strike by Huntelaar brought the two teams level: 1-1.
Heracles striker Hirayama had the biggest chance to give his side the lead back. After 60 minutes, the Japanese international went one-on-one with goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. The Asian striker hesitated and Stekelenburg could throw himself before the ball.
A substitution turned the match around further. Angelos Charisteas, who had just come on for Rosenberg, hit the post with one of his first touches. Michael Timisela was there for the rebound and the right back, who played a solid match made it 1-2.
Another new player then decided the match in added time. Ryan Babel, who replaced Sarpong, scored to make it 1-3 and gave the story of Heracles - Ajax a happy end.