The stage at the Amsterdam ArenA was ready, the banner was high up in the ArenA, waiting for the Ajax players to hoist it up, and with fifteen minutes left on the clock, the fans started to chant ‘stand up for the champions’. But they will have to be a bit more patient. Because although Ajax defeated ADO 3-2, the championship celebration will have to wait at least two weeks, because of Feyenoord’s victory in Eindhoven.
It probably hasn’t occurred very often in the past that so many squad players were forced to watch from the sidelines during a potential championship match. In addition to the suspended Daley Blind, Ricardo van Rhijn (suspended), captain Siem de Jong (hamstring injury), and Niklas Moisander (not fit enough to start) were sidelined. Four in a team is quite a lot, and we haven’t even mentioned Viktor Fischer. But it’s good that most of those players will likely be able to play in a potential championship match in Almelo, two weeks from now.
But as coach Frank de Boer has often said: ‘you don’t become champions with eleven men’. On Sunday, before the duel against ADO Den Haag, who could boast ten undefeated matches in a row, De Boer was forced to make two changes. Ruben Ligeon was called upon to be a right back, and the coach had called up Kenny Tete from the Ajax Reserves to be his back-up on the selection. Christian Poulsen, who, in the absence of De Jong and Moisander wore the captain’s band, filled in for Daley Blind as usual.
The match started four hours later than had originally been scheduled. Ajax – ADO had been planned for twelve-thirty, but because an eventual championship would be dependent on the 16:30 match between PSV and Feyenoord, the Ajax duel was moved to later.
In the first fifteen minutes, Ajax played attentive and attractive football, with an excellent Bojan and outstanding Ligeon. The home team also had good opportunities to take an early advance on the title. The best opportunity was for Davy Klaassen, who unfortunately wasn’t able to control a good pass from Stefano Denswil.
After thirty minutes, the championship scenario was put on ice. Feyenoord had taken a 0-1 lead in Eindhoven, and Ajax still hadn’t scored in the ArenA. Although Bojan came very close to scoring in the 32nd minute when he appeared in front of Coutinho, but the loaned out player from Barcelona punted against the goalie. Soon afterwards, Klaassen almost scored with a header.
A fantastic Danish combination in the 36th minute resulted in a 1-0 lead. After a replay due to offside, Christian Poulsen sent his header, from Lasse Schöne’s free kick, into the goal. But the game was tied in the same minute. With a very unfortunate shot, Stefano Denswil scored on Jasper Cillessen, 1-1.
In the second half, ADO Den Haag brought the wall higher, and Ajax had a tougher time to play through it. The opportunities that did come weren’t taken advantage of. In the 66th minute, Sigthórsson went over the ball, and before that, Bojan sent a shot high over the goal. But Davy Klaassen brought the ArenA to its feet three minutes later when, from the right, he sent a hard ball past Coutinho into the near corner, 2-1. Ten minutes later, Thulani Serero scored the liberating 3-1 goal.
In the meantime, Feyenoord had increased its lead to 0-2 in Eindhoven. The festivities were definitely put on hold. Next week, Ajax has the chance to win the first prize of the season, as they play the cup final in de Kuip against PEC Zwolle. Two weeks later, competition resumes with the 33rd round of play. Ajax will then travel to the artificial turf of Almelo. A tie will be sufficient to win the 33rd title. “We did what we needed to do today by winning three points”, said Frank de Boer. “We knew that Feyenoord would give PSV a tough time, and they did. The only advantage that we now have is that we can now completely look forward to the cup final and that the tension hasn’t been dissipated by a celebration.”