Ajax defeated RBC Roosendaal 4-1 and Feyenoord drew 2-2 at Heerenveen. That meant Ajax are back in the top three of the Dutch league. ,,This was a match we had to win'', said coach Ronald Koeman.
Ajax are aiming to win all matches before the winter break, to be able to play for the top position in the new year. Against lowly and injury-ridden RBC the home team could not afford to get it wrong.
,,We wanted to play at a high pace with a quick ball circulation from the beginning, because we knew RBC would keep it compact", Koeman explained.
Koeman was right, as RBC withdrew collectively. ,,I think that we, considering our situation, have every right to play like this'', said RBC boss Jan van Dijk. ,,You know that you are going to get in trouble against Ajax, so we decided to close everything off and let their central defenders do the playmaking.''
Ajax's early lead, in the thirteenth minute, was more the result of a mistake by the goalkeeper than a quick Ajax attack. But one of the central defenders played a part in it. Julien Escudé fired, goalkeeper Mikael Aerts could not control the ball and striker Yannis Anastasiou - who replaced the injured Ryan Babel - got the last touch in, 1-0.
Ten minutes later the scenario of scoring early and walking away to a big margin went out the door, when Hans Vonk made a mistake similar to that of his colleague on the other side when he appeared to grab a shot by Hakansson but then released the ball again. Edwin de Graaf got there first and put in the equaliser, 1-1.
Ajax had to start over and after a period in which the home team put RBC under some pressure, Maxwell restored the margin after a nice attack on the left side. Boukhari and Maxwell combined and the Brazilian touched it in neatly: 2-1.
Julien Escudé decided the match in the second half. The French defender, who scored twice last week in the match against De Graafschap, put his team on a safe margin when he headed in a nice setpiece by Wesley Sneijder in the 51st minute. ,,From the moment he has begun playing again, he has perfomed well'', Koeman said about his defender who is getting more and more important for Ajax. ,,That gives confidence and if that pays off in goals, that are important moments for a player.''
,,Today the central defenders had to do everything, because the rest of the team was closed off'', the Ajax boss said. ,,That clearly is going better. It happens sometimes that they are quicker than you, I know all about that. So I can tell them how to solve such situations. Sometimes it's better to go back a metre or so. Last year Escudé played reasonably well, but for this season I chose to play with Heitinga/De Jong. When that went wrong, I made some changes and things have improved. But we can be even better still.''
With the score being 3-1, Koeman brought on Nicolae Mitea, Stanley Aborah and Nigel de Jong, hoping to inject some speed in the team. But the level of the match dropped toward the end. Ajax did score a fourth goal, however. Mauro Rosales made it 4-1 from a good pass by Maxwell.
Ajax are now in third place, one point ahead of Feyenoord, ten behind PSV and five behind surprising AZ.