Three days after the competition win against PSV, Feyenoord went under to the Amsterdam team on Wednesday. Ajax decided the KNVB Cup tournament Classic with a 3-1 win, once again eliminating an important competitor for a prize and reaching the KNVB Cup tournament semi-final. Fischer, Bojan and Serero scored in the lively ArenA.
Midweek Classics in the KNVB Cup tournament are rare. It’s still strange to experience Classics which are only attended by the home crowd. Perhaps this will change next season. The silence after Jean-Paul Boëtius’ opening goal on Wednesday had a surreal quality. The left winger gave the ball its final tick after Tonny Vilhella had passed Ajax keeper Kenneth Vermeer with a lob after seven minutes. The midweek cup Classic yielded a goal early on. It was actually exactly as it had been this season’s previous edition of Ajax – Feyenoord in competition play. After an early opening goal from Pellè, centre forward Kolbeinn Sigthórsson erased the deficit with his goals to bring the team to a well-deserved 2-1 win.
Three days after scoring the winning goal in the competition top match against PSV (1-0), the Icelandic Ajax player found himself in the role of substitute at kick-off of this Classic. Somewhat surprisingly, Frank de Boer selected the somewhat more mobile Bojan Krkic as centre forward. Ajax’s coach had several more surprises up his sleeve. Stefano Denswil (‘needs playing time’, according to De Boer) took over Niklas Moisander’s place, and Lerin Duarte took over the left half position from Thulani Serero. Kenneth Vermeer was in the goal in this cup match, which was not so surprising. Previously, during the training camp, De Boer had given his Ajax players playing time, match rhythm and trust. The trainer chooses to rotate certain positions in order to keep his selection as ‘broad’ as possible.
Just like three days earlier in the ArenA against PSV, Ajax started slowly. Especially after Boëtius’ opening goal, Feyenoord had many opportunities. It took a long time before Ajax created its first opportunity, never mind its first goal. Feyenoord played a compact game and was the dominant team for a long time. Ruben Schaken appeared dangerously in front of Vermeer, but the goalie was a good roadblock. The keeper had luck on his side after that, when Nicolai Boilesen prevented another goal on a pass from Graziano Pellè. The Danish winger made the save just in front the goal line. But Ajax was hopeless for half an hour.
“There was too little control and rhythm. And most of all, we were too sloppy”, said De Boer in retrospect on the match’s first thirty minutes. “Fifteen minutes before time, I made a change and the break offered the chance to set things right again.”
Viktor Fischer’s tying goal helped Ajax gain more than just a goal. After a rough charge from Joris Mathijsen, followed by referee Kevin Blom’s good use of the advantage rule, the ball landed via Daley Blind with Fischer, who had gone in deep. The Dane worked the ball, via Daryl Janmaat and keeper Erwin Mulder over the goal line. After the 1-1 goal, which was Ajax’s first real opportunity, it was mainly Ajax who created danger until halftime. Ajax was suddenly playing more sharply and with more mobility. Right back Ricardo van Rhijn shot his offensive contribution onto Mulder’s body. After that, Fischer’s opportunity was turned away by central defender Sven van Beek. The Amsterdam team squandered good opportunities to score a second goal before the break.
But the home team didn’t need to worry for long. Just like against PSV, De Boer’s choice of centre forward paid off against Feyenoord, too. In the 68th minute, Bojan’s header put Ajax in the lead: 2-1. The centre forward scored on a Lasse Schöne header that had been stopped by Mulder. With his pass from the left, Blind was the architect of this double opportunity. Thus the Classic was somewhat a repeat of the one from last sunny August 18, but under the colder circumstances of January 22. Ajax repaired the damage of the early goal against, to emerge as the winner. With fresh reinforcements Christian Poulsen (for Boilesen), Serero (for Duarte) and Sigthórsson (Bojan), the latest Classic victory was in the bag. Thulani Serero’s 3-1 goal was a welcome lockdown in this nerve-wrecking cup evening. The South African rounded off a deep ball from Fischer with a good low shot. The second knock-out in three days was a done deal.
“In the second half, the lines opened up towards Bojan, they had been closed too often in the first half”, continued De Boer. “We got to playing football. If you add up all of the opportunities, a tie may have been a fairer outcome. But considering the field play, we definitely deserved to win.” After the blow to PSV (who now have no a hope of winning the title), cup fighter Feyenoord was eliminated in the KNVB Cup tournament quarter-finals. Ajax thus struck a double blow this week and the Amsterdam team remains in the race for three different prizes. Ajax will meet AZ in the next round of the KNVB Cup tournament. The duel takes place in Alkmaar on March 26 or 27.