Ajax celebrated its 118th birthday in Rotterdam on Sunday afternoon. The visit to Sparta resulted in a 2-5 win for Erik ten Hag’s team, thanks in part to 4 goals in the second half. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Lasse Schöne, Justin Kluivert and Hakim Ziyech (2) treated the club to 3 points.
While the uninvited and bitterly cold wind blew threw Het Kasteel, Ajax’s starting eleven was the same as for the sc Heerenveen game (4-10. Rasmus Kristensen got the nod over Joël Veltman once again.
Sparta plan of attack gets results
The picture of 11 Sparta players on its own half of the field revealed the home team’s intentions. Compact defense and waiting for an Ajax mistake was the tactic. Dick Advocaat’s plan of attack got results in the first half, and Ajax barely came into the game.
The Amsterdam team often had possession, but was uninspired. The first big opportunity was, surprisingly, for Sparta. Robert Mühren received the ball deep, after Kluivert had lost possession. His volley landed in Andre Onana’s hands. The first warning shot to Ajax had been fired.
Opening goal Kramer
The game caught fire around the 30th minute. Michiel Kramer brought his team into a well-deserved 1-0 with his header. While the Sparta fans clapped, Huntelaar was there. The 34 year-old striker sent David Neres’ excellent pass into an open goal: 1-1.
Ajax seemed poised to head into halftime with a lead in the pocket. Maximilian Wöber appeared in front of the opponent’s goal, saw the save on Huntelaar’s header, and scored on the rebound. Dennis Higler cancelled his goal due to suspected offside.
A free kick to the left of the penalty kick area...that can only mean one thing: Lasse Schöne. The Danish specialist repeated his successful formula at het Kasteel. He sent his shot perfectly into the upper corner: 1-2 in the 53rd minute. With this goal, he joined the ranks of Neres, Huntelaar and Donny van de Beek. They are all in the double digits in terms of goals scored in the Eredivisie this season.
This gave Ajax wings as well as inspiration. Where nothing seemed to work in the first half, everything seemed possible in the second. , Kluivert was able to crown beautiful play by Van de Beek with the 1-3 goal, after which Ziyech joined in on the fun. The Moroccan player beautifully curved a 1-4 goal past Jannik Huth. The Ajax player’s acceleration was too quick for the Spartans.
Cherry on the cake
Ten Hag made 2 substitutions. Siem de Jong came in for Neres and Joël Veltman for Kristensen. Not as a substitute, but Ziyech completed the Ajax celebration. His fine free kick was the cherry on the birthday cake. Sparta midfielder Ryan Sanusi repeated his feat in the 90th minute, but this didn’t put a damper on the fun: 2-5.
The 3 points returned to Amsterdam, and, due to interland football, things will be quieter next week. Ajax’s next stop is scheduled for April 1st, when the Eredivisie’s number 2 team will travel to FC Groningen.