Ajax posted its first win of 2012 on Saturday evening. In freezing cold Breda, Ajax defeated NAC Breda 0-2. Dmitry Bulykin and Nicolás Lodeiro scored for Ajax after the break. Eyong Enoh retired after half an hour with a hamstring injury. He is thus a question mark for the upcoming match against Manchester United.
The cheering from the visitors’ stand could be heard until after the match was over. A week before the southern part of the Netherlands breaks out in dance for carnival, an Amsterdam party took place in Brabant. The 750 Ajax fans who had made the trip celebrated the team’s first win of the new year. Before this match against NAC, only the away game against AZ had resulted in any points for the team. Ajax went on to suffer two competition losses in a row to Feyenoord and FC Utrecht. Added to their cup elimination at the hands of AZ, Ajax has been waiting for a win for four matches. The victory against NAC was thus extensively celebrated.
Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen returned to the heart of the defence in Breda. Left back Dico Koppers and Aras Özbiliz had a starting spot, just as did Dmitry Bulykin. The Russian centre forward got the nod from Frank de Boer over Siem de Jong, who stepped in to the injured Theo Janssen’s spot at midfield. With Bulykin leading the offense, De Boer was hoping to create a clear point of play at the front. “And fortunately, it had the desired effect. We kept increasing the pressure, creating opportunities and posing a threat in front of the goal. That was the most important thing today”, said the Ajax coach afterwards.
Bulykin couldn’t make an impact in the first half. The Russian almost had the opening goal at his boots after half an hour, but, completely in the penalty kick area, he wasn’t able to put the ball into the goal. NAC had already had several opportunities. Defender Eric Botteghin came close to scoring for the home team. The defender’s header, from a corner kick, hit the crossbar in the sixth minute.
Ajax was forced to continue without Eyong Enoh after half an hour. The Cameroonian sustained a hamstring injury in a duel with Ajax’s loaned out player Roly Bonevacia. With Ismaïl Aissati coming in, there was more football being played at midfield. But it still took until the beginning of the second half before Ajax got a real opportunity. On a pass from Aras Özbiliz, Bulykin shot the ball against the underside of the crossbar.
Midway through the second half, Bulykin finally met with success. The Russian shook off his direct adversary, and stormed towards the opponent’s goal. From the edge of the box, he shot the ball past keeper Ten Rouwelaar: 0-1. Four minutes later, Christian Eriksen could have decided the match, but the Dane’s hard shot fell prey to the NAC keeper.
Two minutes before time, Santi Kolk shook things up for Ajax. After a collision between Daley Blind and Kenneth Vermeer, the NAC forward had the ball at his feet. Captain Vertonghen was just able to make the save at the goal line. In the next counter attack, all doubts were put to rest. Substitute Nicolás Lodeiro escaped past the midfield line towards the goal, and, coming face to face with Ten Rouwelaar, he was flawless. The Uruguayan shot in the 0-2 goal, to the glee of the Ajax fans who had made the trip.
The win ensured that Ajax returned to Amsterdam satisfied. Looking ahead to Thursday’s match against Manchester United, Ajax gained courage from the win in Breda. De Boer: “I’m satisfied with the play I say, and of course with the win. We really needed this. Let’s hope that we’ve found our way back to the top.”