Once again, Ajax failed to win in the Galgenwaard. On a sunny Easter Sunday, Ajax only managed a 1-1 draw. A win at FC Utrecht has been elusive for the past six seasons. On Sunday, Frank de Boer’s team should have done better.
For most of the second half, the Ajacieds seemed on course to post a long awaited win in Utrecht. On a Lasse Schöne corner, Davy Klaassen brought the ball, in a header, all the way to Utrecht player Ramos Leeuwin. The central defender unwittingly sent the ball into his own goal. Six minutes into the second half, Ajax was in the lead, 0-1.
It took until the 88th minute for the home team to do anything in return. Just four minutes after coming onto the field, substitute Gévero Markiet brought the Utrecht team even with the Amsterdam one. His goal was good enough to earn the super sub – despite very little ball contact – the title of Man of the Match.
On the previous evening, PSV had decided the Eredivisie title pretty much definitively, in their favour. The Brabant team posted a convincing 5-0 win against FC Twente. At this point in the season, the most that De Boer’s Ajacieds can hope for, after four straight championship years, is second place. Qualification for the qualifying rounds of the Champions League would be the most they could achieve. It will be an adjustment after seasons long of athletic bounty.
Winning in Utrecht has proven difficult in the past years for Ajax. Very difficult, in fact. The Utrecht natives have been nursing an undefeated streak against the Amsterdammers for the past five home games. The last two editions on Utrecht – Ajax have ended in a draw: 1-1 (last season) and 0-0.
The last time Ajax had won in Stadion Galgenwaard was on March 1, 2009. Gregory van der Wiel and Jan Vertonghen scored the goals then. Earlier this season, Ajax did well in the trusted ArenA against the team led by former Ajacied Robbie Alflen. In mid-December, Ajax won 3-1. Thus, for the first time since 2007-2008, the potential was there for the Amsterdam team to win both Eredivisie matches against Utrecht.
The interland period had left its marks on the Ajax selection. Arek Milik sustained a knee injury during Poland’s game against Ireland. The centre forward was replaced on Sunday by Kolbeinn Sigthórsson. Compared to the last Ajax matches against ADO Den Haag (1-0), more changes had been made. Nicolai Boilesen replaced captain Niklas Moisander. Ricardo Kishna and Lucas Andersen relinquished their spots on the squad to Riechedly Bazoer and Anwar El Ghazi.
For the first half, the teams were evenly matches in terms of opportunities. El Ghazi opened the duel with a header. One minute later, Utrecht midfielder Willem Janssen (shot) and Ramon Leewin (header) appeared dangerously before Cillessen. The goalie had the last word both times. Shots by Ricardo van Rhijn (long) and Lasse Schöne (free kick onto the crossbar) didn’t bear fruit. The game was scoreless at halftime.
In the second half, Ajax controlled the match. The fact that the current champion wasn’t able to increase on the 0-1 by Leeuwin was the result of sloppiness. Ajax didn’t have much to fear from the home team for most of the second half. There was a remarkable lack of sharpness and killer instinct especially in the final minutes. Utrecht only had two opportunities for a long time after the break. Cillessen boxed away an attempt by Yassin Ayoub, while forward Sébastian Haller almost scored on a header.
Shortly after Richairo Zivkovic and Jairo Riedewald were brought in for Sigthórsson and Bazoer, Viergever seemed poised to decide the match with a long distance shot. At the key moment, keeper Robbin Ruiter saved his team from a fatal Ajax goal.
Utrecht’s tying goal in the 85th minute was a complete blow. Leeuwin’s red card in the 88th minute after a hard foul on Boilesen didn’t change the result. In a disappointing season, the Amsterdam team should at least have put an end to the disappointing recent statistics against FC Urecht.