Ajax won its tenth straight competition match on Sunday. In a sold out Amsterdam ArenA, the Eredivisie’s leader was too strong for De Graafschap by 3-1. Thanks to the win, Ajax has forged a lead of six points over number two team AZ. Derk Boerrigter crowned his return to the starting line up with two goals.
Almost all of the title contenders squandered precious points on Saturday evening for the second time in a row. And, just like last Wednesday evening against sc Heerenveen, Ajax took maximum advantage of that. “Yesterday evening was great. Not only because it was my daughter’s birthday, but because of the competition losing points. Because of the birthday I was mostly occupied with pouring wine, but Teletext was on. At NAC’s tying goal, there was lots of cheering in the De Boer house.”
AZ and Feyenoord now trail Ajax by six points. PSV and Heerenveen are seven points behind leader Ajax. A luxury which was unthinkable earlier this season, when Ajax trailed the leading team by thirteen points during one period. Considering that Ajax’s goal balance is far better than the competition’s, the 31st national title seems even more within reach after this weekend. The last time that Ajax won two championships in a row was back in the nineties (1994-1995-1996). With the remaining home games against FC Groningen and VVV-Venlo, and away games against FC Twente and Vitesse, winning the title seems closer than ever.
Gregory van der Wiel and Derk Boerrigter made their appearance at kick-off against De Graafschap for the first time in many moons. After successfully coming in as substitutes against Heerenveen, the twosome was ready to start from the beginning. Adding Kolbeinn Sigthórsson’s return (he played the last nine minutes against De Graafschap), Ajax is going into the season’s final stretch at full strength.
The Eredivisie’s number 17 team, which defeated FC Utrecht in last week’s midweek match, didn’t stand much of a chance in the ArenA. Boosted by a quick goal by Derk Boerrigter (at 2 minutes 6 seconds), Ajax had the chance to pursue a monster score. But it wasn’t until the 37th minute that the hundredth Ajax goal of the season was followed up. Soon after De Graafschap had posed a few threats via Ted van de Pavert and Rydell Poepon, Christian Eriksen doubled the lead. On a pass from Ismaïl Aissati, who was playing as a right forward, he placed the ball with a precise shot into the near corner behind keeper De Winter:2-0. The Ajax player with the most assists by far thus increased his personal goal balance to seven.
Two goals came in the last two minutes before the break. After Boerrigter’s 3-0, on a pass from the then-fit Jan Vertonghen, Michael de Leeuw scored for the visitors: 3-1. Although this goal was simply a footnote in the match, the goal marked the end of a series of clean sheets for Kevin Vermeer. After 545 minutes of play, he suffered a goal against. This was his first since Roda JC Kerkrade-Ajax on March 4.
No goals were scored after the break in the ArenA, which was packed with 52.289 supporters. But De Boer thought the second half was by far the better half. “After the goal in the third minute, everyone thought that we may score something like ten goals. But, partly through our own play, we remained far from that. We lost possession too much and ran with the ball too much. I was nervous in the first half. After the break, I wasn’t. It was a shame for the crowd that we didn’t score more, because a match can kind of bleed to death like that.”
Eriksen was the closest to scoring a fourth Ajax goal in the second half, but his shot bounced out of the goal via the underside of the crossbar. It didn’t make much difference. Thanks to the 3-1 score, the game was in the bag, bringing Ajax one step closer to repeating their championship. The banner that the VAK410 supporters thanking Ajax afterwards summarized the race for the title. ‘We fight together with just one goal: number 1’. There are four matches to go.