Ajax earned one point at their away game at Roda Juliana Combinatie. Ten Ajax players, following a red card for Urby Emanuelson in the final minutes of the game, got stuck at 2-2 in Kerkrade. The credit for both goals went to Ajax’s top scorer, Luis Suarez.
Ajax travelled to Limburg from Brussels, where they had played their Europa League match on Thursday night against Anderlecht. In the southern province, they prepared for their next Eredivisie game on Friday and Saturday.
Miralem Sulejmani had a place in the starting team in Parkstad Limburg stadium, crowded with 17.500 spectators. The Serbian started instead of Kennedy, who had been in the starting team last Thursday in the Brussels. Three days after the tied game (1-1) in Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, the Swedish forward observed the action from the stands. Marko Pantelic and Luis Suarez made up the purely offensive line-up in Martin Jol’s team. The forwards were reinforced by Sulejmani (who also made frequent appearances in midfield), and the midfielder Ismaïl Aissati. Demy de Zeeuw – outstanding in his performance Thursday night against Anderlecht – and Eyong Enoh ensured balance in midfield. Especially De Zeeuw was thinking, and playing, offensively. On defence, Jol hadn’t changed anything in his line-up from the team’s last Europa League match.
Just like in Brussels, the first fifteen minutes in the game belonged to Ajax. They shaped the game and created opportunity after opportunity. Pantelic proved himself once again as a solid presence on field. Even with his opponent constantly hovering, the Serb stayed on top of his game and only rarely lost possession. Sulejmani received his captain’s excellent pass, but his attempt hit the Limburger’s goal post. De Zeeuw’s attempt, a header made while he was falling, went wide. These were Ajax’s biggest opportunities in the first minutes of play.
After the first fifteen minutes, the team from Limburg fought their way into the game. The few opportunities for Harm van Veldhoven’s team didn’t faze Maarten Stekelenburg, although constant vigilance was needed to stay on top of the yellow and black clad opponents. Anouar Hadouir stood out as the greatest thorn in Ajax’s side in the first half. The offensive midfielder’s attempt deflected off an Ajax’s player, and ended up on the goal’s roof.
Ajax took the lead after 24 minutes. Suarez shot an impeccable penalty kick past keeper Castro, after Roda defender Davy de Fauw had touched the ball with his hand. Barely a minute later, the Kerkrade team tied the game. Mediocre defence was to blame for Arnaud Sutchuin Djoum’s goal. Hadouir managed to shake off two Ajax players near the corner flag. The Cameroon native’s messy shot earned the home team a quick goal to even the score, 1-1.
Even after Djoum’s goal, the match was mainly played out in front of the home team’s goal. Castro solidly blocked an attempt by Suarez, while Pa Modou Kah, the pit bull in Roda JC’s defence, blocked Pantelic several times from scoring.
Dennis Rommendahl started after halftime, substituting Sulejmani. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Siem de Jong was brought in for Aissati. Nine minutes later, Ajax fell behind, for one of the few times this season. Willem Janssen advanced on the left side, and Boldiszar Bodor attacked with laser precision, putting a low shot into the lower right corner. Roda JC had come from behind to take the lead, 2-1.
Luis Suarez repaired the damage quickly. Soon after Bodor’s goal, Urby Emanuelson was hauled down on the edge of the penalty kick zone. The ensuing free kick was a piece of cake for Suarez. The Uruguayan’s shot zipped perfectly past the Roda wall, landing in the high left corner.
Suarez once again was impeccable this afternoon, striking at the right time to turn an unfavourable situation around for his team, and proving once again that in addition to his value as captain, he is, undeniably, a scoring star. The Ajax player reinforced his top scorer position. With twelve goals, Suarez is a strong performer on the national scoring ranking, leading the list of top scorers by a wide margin.
The closing minutes saw some tense moments in front of both keepers, but no additional goals came out of it. “We need to make good on the chances we get” said Martin Jol at the press conference afterwards. “We weren’t resourceful enough to win today, but we also didn’t lose. Ajax always needs to break down the opponent’s wall, and make sure we go home with three points.”
Ajax didn’t leave Parkstad Limburg Stadium unscathed, in two respects. With the 2-2 tie, Ajax left two points on the table; in the closing minutes, the team also lost Urby Emanuelson. The left defender got a red card after a foul on Hadouir. “It’s hard to see for a referee, but I don’t think anyone believed that Urby’s play warranted a red card”, ventured Jol. Van Veldhoven agreed: “I don’t think it was a red card. But that’s the referee’s decision.”