Ajax suffered a setback in the title race on Sunday. The side not only lost to FC Groningen (1-0), but in the final minutes also saw Jan Vertonghen and Marco van Basten sent off.
The always lively clash between Groningen and Ajax had a disappointing ending. Jan Vertonghen was shown a second yellow card and coach Marco van Basten argued with the officials and was sent to the stands of the Euroborg stadium. Siem de Jong took the place of the suspended striker Dario Cvitanich and Robbert Schilder played left back, giving Jan Vertonghen the opportunity to replace the injured Eyong Enoh in midfield. There were chances for both sides and both goalkeepers, Luciano da Silva and Maarten Stekelenburg, were tested regularly. Marcus Berg just missed a chance to give the home side the lead and on the other side it was Luis Suarez who was the most dangerous forward. Groningen's Danny Holla was succesful, striking from distance in the 39th minute: 1-0. ,,Holla's goal made the difference in the first half’’, Van Basten said. ,,We had our own chances, but did not use them.’’ Ajax kept on missing chances after the break, and Groningen had more chances to widen the margin. Thomas Vermaelen played as an extra striker later in the second half, but Ajax could not erase the deficit. With Evander Sno and Leonardo on, the pressure on the home side's defence increased, but it was not meant to be this time. ,,In the second half we put up a good fight’’, Van Basten said. ,,Besides Thomas hitting the crossbar, Suarez was also free before Luciano. Unfortunately, the ball would not go in this time. We lost an important match in the race for the championship. That obviously makes me sad, especially because we deserved more in the second half.’’ In the closing stages Ajax lost more than points alone. Jan Vertonghen was shown his second yellow card, for arguing with the linesman. The decision of referee Jan Wegereef did not sit well with Van Basten, who raced onto the pitch. The Ajax boss was also ejected from the match. Van Basten: ,,Jan's second yellow was completely undeserved. If you know what's going on as a ref, you don't give him a second yellow for such a thing. I stood up for my team.’’