Ajax’s win against Vitesse on Sunday afternoon seemed like child’s play. With Siem de Jong bringing both flavour and fuel to the match, the end result in the Amsterdam ArenA was 4-0. Thanks to PSV’s loss of points (1-1 against Sparta), Ajax’s victory was twice as sweet.
Earlier this season, Ajax posted a convincing away win against Vitesse, 1-5. Marko Pantelic had played an undisputed key role in the Gelredome, scoring three goals. The Serb made a successful return for this match in Amsterdam against Vitesse, after an illness had forced him to miss the first game against Juventus on Thursday. As in most of the season, the forward had a hand in a goal. In the eighteenth minute, Siem de Jong took advantage of a smart play from his experienced team mate. The pass came from the left, courtesy of Suarez. De Jong scored with a simple shot from close range: 1-0.
In the home game against Vitesse, Pantelic formed an attacking trio with Luis Suarez and Christian Eriksen. Suarez had missed out some great opportunities earlier. On Christian Eriksen’s fine pass from the outside left side (the Dane had earned his start on the squad for the second time), the captain came face to face with Piet Velthuizen. The Uruguayan tried to place the ball too subtly past the keeper, who had come out. It was simple for Velthuizen to get his glove behind the shot. Three minutes later, Suarez saw his shot from far out hit the post (which would happen to him twice more before and shortly after halftime).
After De Jong’s goal, Suarez made one of his own. The top scorer got possession of the ball, via De Jong and Toby Alderweireld. After a shot into the opponent’s defensive wall, Suarez attacked again on the rebound. The diagonal low shot was too good for Velthuizen: 2-0. Ajax got some unexpected help to bring the score to 3-0. Vitesse right back Paul Verhaegh extended Demy de Zeeuw’s free kick unwittingly into his own goal.
Verhaegh’s scoring header was probably the most remarkable moment before halftime. Theo Bos’ team was powerless, just as it had been previously in the Gelredome. However, Santi Kolk did put Maarten Stekelenburg to the test with a hard shot from close by. The Ajax goalie was a major obstacle for the team from Gelderland.
Thanks to their generous lead, Ajax can enjoy relatively calm preparations for the football week ahead. Thursday night, they play the return match against Juventus. In Turin, Ajax will need to make up for their 2-1 deficit. Even though they will have to do without Suarez (suspended on Thursday), Ajax can count on Pantelic’s return, as well as on the excellent play of two other players. Thursday, Siem de Jong already showed some of his class to the Italian powerhouse. In addition to De Jong, Eriksen was outstanding on Sunday. The Danish left forward made his mark with his solid, confident play.
“We know Eriksen is talented and fearless”, said Ajax coach Martin Jol of his asset. “Today, he took more shots than some of our players have taken in the last six months. Eriksen is a true Ajax player, in the style of Van der Vaart and Sneijder, and is from the same mould as the great talents which have either been sold in the past, or are still here.”
With his compelling play, De Jong was the one to bring the score to 4-0. The attacking midfielder received a pass from Demy de Zeeuw, after which it precisely ended up in the goal’s lower left corner. A few minutes later, Eriksen saw his shot blocked by Velthuizen. In the last twenty minutes, De Jong, Eriksen and Suarez alternately had the most Ajax opportunities. Velthuizen did what he needed to do to avoid a fifth goal.
With Urby Emanuelson (replacing De Zeeuw), Nicolas Lodeiro (brought in for Pantelic) and Dennis Rommendahl (for Siem de Jong), Ajax brought the afternoon to a successful close. Last weekend, Vitesse gave the titel competitor FC Twente a run for their money. After a 1-0 lead, the “Tukkers” still suffered a 1-2 loss. Ajax didn’t leave the team from Arnhem a chance. Vitesse were hopeless in the Amsterdam ArenA.
“We didn’t expect it to be such a walk over”, said Jol. “Everyone did their part, and everyone wanted to score. That was the problem in the second half. We created a lot of opportunities. But 4-0 is 4-0. Especially after such a tough European match.”
Due to PSV’s tie with Sparta (1-1), Ajax is down 7 points on the leader. FC Twente has six points more to date than Ajax. There are still ten rounds of competition play. Jol, on the race to catch up: “What’s worse, chasing, or being chased?”