For the second time this season Ajax suffered a sensitive defeat against ADO Den Haag. Just as in the home game, Ajax faltered in the Kyocera Stadium: 3-2. Three days after the European elimination De Boer’s team had to deal with another blow. In the second half Geoffrey Castillion made his debut on Ajax’ first team.
However good the statistics looked beforehand, after ninety minutes of football in The Hague, they proved totally worthless. Just as with the historic home defeat earlier this season, ADO proved too strong for Ajax in their own stadium. And again the defeat had a historic ring to it, as the last time Ajax had lost in The Hague had been in 1980. That made this unique defeat a bitter pill to swallow. In addition to that it put an end to a series of thirteen league matches going undefeated.
The loss in The Hague is a big set back in the race against FC Twente and PSV for the title. Even though a lot could still happen in the remaining six matches, Frank de Boer knew, even before the match started, that all that counted was a win against ADO away. His view hadn’t changed after the match. ,,Looking at the match as a whole, it’s unbelievable that we lost. We domineered ADO, but through our naivety we eventually lost. We clumsily gave away goals and it looked as if our players have no idea what it’s all about. That’s very disappointing.”
De Boer chose to put Dario Cvitanich in centre forward position. His success as a substitute against Willem II and Spartak Moscow made De Boer decide to let the Argentinean start. Together with Aras Özbiliz, who replaced the suspended Ebecilio, and Miralem Sulejmani, he formed Ajax’ offence in The Hague. Siem de Jong and Eyong Enoh were to bring extra power to the midfield in order to stop the expected ADO storm.
Initially Ajax resisted that storm for half an hour. During that period keeper Jeroen Verhoeven had a number of opportunities in which he discerned himself. Ajax also had a number of opportunities themselves, which could have made the afternoon a lot easier for them. Particularly Christian Eriksen’s escape in the fifth minute looked promising. The Dane sped from the midfield to the home team’s goal, but Cviatinch turned out not to be the ideal partner to round off the attack with a goal. The Argentinean ran into keeper Coutinho, putting an end to Ajax’ lightning start. Sulejmani, Eriksen and Özbiliz created more dangerous attacks but these lacked precision and luck and therefore didn’t result in any goals.
ADO eventually did mange to score. Two minutes after Vurnon Anita prevented Ajax from trailing 1-0, by deflecting a header by Immers, the left back failed to clear the ball effectively. ADO striker Bulykin first shot the ball against the bar, after which Frantisek Kubik came up in the rebound to head in the opening goal. The ball landed in the Ajax goal via Alderweireld: 1-0.
It then took Ajax until twenty minutes before time to retaliate with a goal. Shortly after the very tall Geoffrey Castillion (shirt number 42) had debuted by substituting in the offence, Jan Vertonghen scored the equaliser. A clever lateral free kick by Eriksen was pelted into the goal by Ajax’ team captain: 1 all. The excitement over the equaliser was short lived when ADO took the lead again in the 76th minute. Immers kicked in a free kick by Verhoek at close range, leaving Ajax in an uphill battle once more: 2-1.
In a mad final stage of the game Ajax was poised between hope and fear. First Eriksen headed Ajax back to level pegging in the 85th minute, but just as with Vertonghen’s equaliser, ADO responded quickly. Timothy Derijck decided the match once and for all, three minutes before the final whistle, by scoring from a corner at close range. And so ADO’s team captain had the final say on the afternoon that Ajax lost three points against the club from The Hague, for the second time this season. In addition, the yellow card for Vertonghen means Ajax will have to do without their team captain when they play Heracles Almelo at home in two weeks time.
De Boer: ,,Even after 2 all I still felt they were tired and we would reap the rewards, but in the end we were rebuffed. This is extremely disappointing because this could have thrown our chances for the Championship. All because of mistakes that shouldn’t happen at this level of football.”
Photos: Ajax.nl/Gerard van Hees