Ajax is the only team of the traditional top three who won their match this weekend. Where PSV drew 0-0 at Utrecht and Feyenoord lost 4-1 to AZ in Alkmaar, Ajax defeated NEC 1-0 in the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday. The home team made it difficult on themselves by missing many chances. ,,Still, we deserved to win'', said coach Ronald Koeman.
Ajax move up in the league tabel after the 1-0 victory. The side is now in fifth place, four points behind number two Feyenoord. ,,There is one remedy to get out of the slump, and that is winning. If we can climb out of this by winning, the other things will take care of themselves'', Koeman said.
The other things are good football and many goals. Ajax could have scored a lot against the team of former Ajax player Johan Neeskens. Rafael van der Vaart, again playing a the team's striker with this time Wesley Sonck right behind him, had enough opportunities. ,,He alone had four chances'', Koeman said. ,,Luckily, he made one.''
That goal came after a good move by Maxwell, who, although seemingly tired, regularly came forward on the left flank. In the 24th minute he again made his way to the other side of the pitch and delivererd a good cross. With a deft touch near the first post Van der Vaart put his team ahead: 1-0.
,,We showed nice football in the first half'', Koeman analysed. ,,We created good chances but did not score enough goals.'' Latest signing Mauro Rosales impressed with his play on the right wing. In the second half NEC upped the pressure and Ajax were left without answers. ,,They overran us in the second half'', Koeman said. That is why he brought on an extra midfielder and took off Wesley Sonck, who clearly showed his displeasure with the substitution. ,,I understand his disappointment'', Koeman said. ,,But he has to realise that we are busy with only one thing and that is winning. If that is at the expense of the individual player, so be it. He has to understand. And he should not have reacted that way.''
With the margin only being one goal, Ajax were under pressure. NEC had several good chances but Maarten Stekelenburg pulled his side through with great saves. The goalkeeper stopped Wielaert in the 50th minute who came running at him, reacted well on a shot by Barreto and especially in the closing stages he was very strong.
Koeman brought on an extra defender in the person of Julien Escudé, who replaced Nicolae Mitea, but NEC came very close to equalising. Again Stekelenburg came to the rescue. He punched a great Barretto free kick over the crossbar and prevented an almost certain goal in the 90th minute, after which Niedzielan fired the rebound high over the goal, to everyone on Ajax side's relief.
,,I think we deserved to win, Koeman said. ,,But they had their chances too, so we could have given away two points.''