Ajax credibly earned their place in the Cup final last Thursday night. First division team Go Ahead Eagles were soundly defeated in the semi-final. In the pleasant, jam packed Adelaarshorst, Ajax worked their way to a 6-0 win.
Earlier in the tournament, Go Ahead Eagles had eliminated NAC Breda and Heracles Almelo. Andries Ulderink’s team was hoping to pull a Cup upset against Ajax. Understandably, as Ajax’s performance against Jupiler League teams AGOVV and FC Dordrecht were among the team’s more mediocre ones this season. This fuelled the home team’s dream of reaching their first Cup final in 45 years. Almost a half century ago, Feyenoord defeated the team from Deventer with a 1-0 score in the Dutch Cup final. In this 2010 edition, Feyenoord assured themselves of a spot in the Cup final last Wednesday. The team from Rotterdam was, surprisingly, too strong for League leader FC Twente, and defeated them 2-1.
The evening in De Adelaarshorst went differently than the home team had hoped. The Eagles unleashed an imposing storm during the opening stages, directing their attacks towards Maarten Stekelenburg. Right winger Joey Suk came closest to scoring the opening goal for the home team. The local hero and crowd favourite, who bears a Go Ahead tattoo on his back, shot the ball high over the goal. The “Deventer Suk” – Ajax’s Korean player Hyun Jun Suk remained on the bench for the match – could have set this Cup match on its head.
Demy de Zeeuw put an end to the hosts’ dream of a Cup final in the tenth minute. Luis Suarez came through from the left, and Demy de Zeeuw simply kicked the ball into the goal: 0-1. The player, formerly of the Deventer team, did a great service for Ajax. The midfielder enjoyed his football development years on the Vetkampstraat, and moved to AZ in 2005. This season, De Zeeuw traded in Almaar club for Ajax. In the capital, the Apeldoorn native has rapidly become a key contributor, and critical play maker for Ajax.
Stekelenburg wasn’t challenged very much in the first half, but he came into action skilfully when he needed to. He made a good save on an attempt by Nigel Hasselbaink. Maikel Kieftenbeld en Jules Reimerink sent their shots respectively wide and high. The crowd in the fully sold out Adelaarshorst fully – and vocally - enjoyed this special Cup evening.
Marko Pantelic’s goal, 2-0 (resulting from a combination with Siem de Jong), coming five minutes before half time, reduced the odds of a Cup upset to virtually nil. Earlier, Urby Emanuelson had had a good chance to score, but his attempt ended in keeper Remko Pasveer’s hands. After the break, the keeper got to the ball just ahead of Suarez, who had broken through. The Uruguayan was sent away by Pantelic. With nerves of steel, Pasveer neutralised the Ajax threat. The goalie was continuously on guard. Christian Eriksen came face to face with the keeper, but fired a weak shot. Making a pass to Emanuelson, who had kept up with him, would have been a better option.
Besides a handful of opportunities that the red and yellow clad home team created, Ajax was seldom surprised during the match. This time, the team from Amsterdam can look back on their solid Cup performance. During the last fifteen minutes, Ajax opened fire. Siem de Jong struck hard, and in cold blood (0-3), and, two minutes later, seemed poised to add a second goal to his name. Dave Bus redirected the shot to the goal line, but was then powerless to stop Eriksen’s attempt on the rebound. This was Eriksen’s first goal for Ajax. The Eagles, who had been so feisty and proud at kick off, had become listless and broken winged. Substitute Dennis Rommendahl brought Ajax to their fifth goal with a hard, sure shot. Another substitute, Nicolás Lodeiro, scored the final goal, 0-6. The Uruguayan struck mercilessly from a free kick. Like Eriksen, this was his first goal as an Ajax player.
With this 6-0 victory, Ajax assured themselves credibly of the last spot in the Cup final. They are on course for their eighteenth Cup triumph, and it promises to be an exciting Cup match against Feyenoord on April 25th
“It’s nice to end it this way”, said Martin Jol, looking back on the win in Deventer during the press conference. “Coming here, we knew that it could get tricky. Especially since we’ve had a tough time in previous Cup matches. Go Ahead Eagles is a peculiar team, but we were able to get them under control. The only thing that was a shame tonight is that it took a long time before we scored the third. But in the end, we played it out well. 6-0 is a strange result for a Cup semi-final.”
“It’s a good sign”, said Jol, looking ahead to the upcoming Cup match. “If everything goes as we hope it will, it’s going to be a dream final.”