Ajax has had a good start to 2011 thanks to a 2-0 win over Feyenoord. The make-up game was an easy one for Frank de Boer’s team. Thanks to goals from Toby Alderweireld and Miralem Sulejmani, Ajax won the Klassieker. Jody Lukoki made his Ajax 1 debut right before the end.
Is there a greater stage than the Klassieker? Miralem Sulejmani asked the question leading up to the Ajax – Feyenoord match. Until now, his best goal had been during his debut against Willem II in 2008. But, he said, scoring against Feyenoord was the ultimate goal possible to score as an Ajax player. 24 hours later, he put his words into action. After being hauled down in the box, he received a penalty kick and coolly made good: 2-0. Sulejmani thus scored the deciding goal of this Klassieker, in which Ajax was clearly dominant.
The 55th Ajax – Feyenoord match was Frank de Boer’s first as head coach. As a player, he was almost always on the winning side when Ajax played against Feyenoord. He only lost twice to the arch rival during all of those years. Recent statistics also speak heavily in Ajax’s favour. Feyenoord’s last win in Amsterdam dates back to 2005.
2011’s first Klassieker brought new faces to the forefront of each team. On Ajax’s side, Frank de Boer needed to make do without the suspended Luis Suarez and injured top scorer Mounir El Hamdaoui. Urby Emanuelson (ankle) was also missing for Ajax, which accorded a starting spot to Daley Blind. In Suarez and El Hamdaoui’s absence, the front line consisted of Miralem Sulejmani, Siem de Jong and Lorenzo Ebecilio, the same players as for Ajax’s match against Galatasaray on Saturday. At Feyenoord, where technical director Leo Beenhakker had announced his resignation the previous day, Gill Swerts and first timer Krisztián Simon were the most surprising names on the starting line-up.
After the smoke from the organized fireworks had cleared, a long series of opportunities arose for Ajax. The chances came one after the other during the first fifteen minutes. Specifically, the combinations between Demy de Zeeuw and Christian Eriksen resulted in dangerous plays, with the Dane always in the ending position. Sulejmani and De Jong, who had scored four times against Feyenoord before the season during the double cup final, made regular appearances in front of Erwin Mulder’s goal. Besides a weak opportunity for Feyenoord, Ajax had nothing to fear from the Eredivisie’s number thirteen team.
The opening goal didn’t take long to come, as Toby Alderweireld showed after 31 minutes. The Belgian defender took a shot on goal from midway in Feyenoord’s half. And, although he partly skidded during his shot, it still had enough punch to beat keeper Mulder: 1-0. A simmering ArenA welcomed the goal enthusiastically. A similar excitement burst through the ArenA fifteen minutes later. With a beautiful move, Ebecilio turned artfully away from opponent Swerts, creating a new opportunity. His measured pass went to Sulejmani, but the Serb just missed shooting the ball in, sending it over Feyenoord’s goal instead.
After the stirring Bob Marley singing from Lenny (The Voice of Holland), and a lottery of fine prizes from Ajax’s sponsors, Ajax remained in control during the second half. But it took until the last fifteen minutes before Ajax planted the final nail in the coffin. Sulejmani, who was on a roll, went in search of 2-0 and was hauled down in the Rotterdam box. The resulting penalty kick was his to take, and he crowned his 96th official match for Ajax with a goal.
There was another enjoyable moment during the closing phase. Jody Lukoki (18) made his Ajax 1 debut. The quick winger with number 37 came in for Ebecilio and tasted real action for a great few minutes. With the 2-0 lead in the bag, yet another product of the Ajax youth training program enjoyed playing in the Klassieker. De Boer saw that it went well.
“We played somewhere between reasonably well, and well”, was de Boer’s conclusion. “We didn’t do ourselves any favours by waiting so long to score the second goal. The match was therefore tense for an unnecessarily long time. But we didn’t really give anything away, and that’s worth a compliment.” About Lukoki, who made his debut, Ajax’s coach said: “Jody is a true right winger. A classic winger, who’s fast, can score, and most of all, defends well. I’ve seen all that in A1 and now he’s got to show what he’s got at this level. He’s a player with potential.”