Ajax made a disappointing start in the Eredivisie on Saturday evening. At Heracles Almelo, the final score was 2-1. After Hakim Ziyech’s opening goal, the home team was able to force a win thanks to goals by Paul Gladon and Brandley Kuwas.
Prior to the game in Almelo, Davinson Sánchez was noticeably absent. Coach Marcel Keizer had evaluated that the defender wasn’t 100% focused, and had thus not called on him. Nick Viergever took the Colombian’s place in the heart of defense. Mitchell Dijks filled the left back position.
The first part of the game was one-sided. Ajax forced Heracles back onto its own half, and the home team sat back and waited for the counter. Ziyech fired the first shot of the game, but Heracles keeper Bram Castro saw the Moroccan’s attempt sail over the goal. The home team replied with shots by Kuwas and Brahim Darri. After these incidents, Ajax took more emphatic control of the game.
Castro prevents an Ajax goal
Donny van de Beek fired two outstanding shots at Castro within a short time of each other. The Belgian saved both attempts from his goal. A few minutes before the break, Dijks stormed into the penalty kick area of the home team, but the left back also found Castro in his way. Dijks made his mark again a few minutes into the second half, but the Ajacied’s low shot hit the post.
Ziyech breaks the stalemate
Ajax reaped its reward in the 56th minute. After a great individual play by Amin Younes, Ziyech was able to take an unencumbered shot. The midfielder didn’t hesitate and sent the ball hard against the ropes. After earning the lead, Ajax failed to continue to apply pressure, and Heracles grabbed their chance to fight their way back into the game. After a pass from Kuwas, Paul Gladon was too swift for Ajax’s defense. The striker outplayed Onana at close range.
The tying goal gave the home team confidence, and shots by Kuwas and Van Ooijen tested Onana. On the opposite side, Younes rang in Ajax’s offensive efforts with a clean shot into the corner, which Castro once again saved.
It was Kuwas who decided the game in the 82nd minute. The winger dribbled towards the inside and beat Onana with a curved shot into the corner. In the hunt for one point, Ajax took some risks on offense, but to no avail.
This resulted in two good opportunities for substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar, but it wasn’t meant to be for the striker tonight. A false start for the Amsterdam team in Almelo was the consequence. On Thursday, Marcel Keizer’s team will have the chance to redeem itself at home when they face Rosenborg in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
See also: In Beeld | Heracles - Ajax (2-1)