Ajax revives the race for title

Ajax revives the race for title

With seven games left, Ajax is now closer to a possible championship. They soundly defeated their competitor, PSV, in the Amsterdam ArenA: 4-1. The difference between Ajax and number two PSV is now just one point. Leader FC Twente is six points ahead of Ajax.

The Ajax-PSV showdown has been the focus for quite some time. After PSV’s defeat to NAC, coupled with Ajax’s winning streak, the stakes of the game quickly rose to ‘do or die’. And Ajax ‘did’, and very convincingly, with a strong win. The team from Amsterdam is back.

“We were nine points behind PSV, and now we’re only one point behind”, came Martin Jol’s reassuring conclusion. “This chase isn’t over. We’re closer to the championship now, and our competition will be getting nervous. But we still need to overcome some bumps in the road.”

The tension was palpable in the sold out ArenA on Sunday, which was also the eve of Ajax’s 110th anniversary. The place was charged up with the knowledge that Martin Jol’s team simply had to make it happen against PSV. Ajax received two yellow cards in the first six minutes. Alderweireld and De Zeeuw were penalised for their infractions on Bakkal and keeper Isaksson. Ajax was hungry, but needed to watch their step.

Ajax recovered well. Siem de Jong opened the score in the 28th minute. After Amrabat and Toivonen had threatened for PSV, De Jong hit the mark. From De Zeeuw’s corner, the ball landed at Suarez’s feet, whose shot was blocked by PSV keeper Isaksson. De Jong reacted quickly on the rebound: 1-0.

After the opening goal, Ajax was still watching out for PSV. Especially with the knowledge that the team from Eindhoven has only lost twice in competition since the ArenA’s opening. The 2-0 for Ajax, which came just before the break, was all the sweeter, bringing them into a comfortable position. With a stunning shot to the upper corner, Emanuelson brought the crowd in the jubilant stadium to its feet. On a pass from Pantelic, who backheeled the ball through Rodriguez’s legs from the corner flag, Emanuelson was able to set up a shot. From the edge of the box, he created a joyful explosion with his fine, convincing goal.

Ten minutes into the second half, an injured Siem de Jong was replaced by Gabri. A kick to the calf sent him out of the match, and he will be examined on Monday to evaluate the damage. Without the youth international, and with the controlling Spaniard at midfield, Ajax came away unscathed later on, as PSV’s Dzsudzsak made his way to Stekelenburg’s goal. Alderweireld kept up and was able to cut off the angle on the attack.

65 minutes and two opportunities later (Van der Wiel and Suarez), Ajax padded their lead even more. Amrabat lost the ball, which was picked up by a watchful Anita, after which it ended up, via De Zeeuw, with Pantelic. Ajax’s Serbian forward pushed the ball past Isaksson, and brought his total number of competition goals this season to nine. For Jol, the 3-0 was the best moment of the afternoon. “3-0 on an afternoon like this is the best. At that point, the match is decided, and from that moment on, you feel a bit more comfortable.”

But Ajax’s thirst wasn’t quenched after the third goal, although they did have to swallow a goal against them in the process. In a duel with substitute Koevermans, Vertonghen handled the ball in the box eight minutes before the end. Referee Blom had no choice but to direct the ball to the penalty spot. Stekelenburg was close, but couldn’t stop Dzsudzsak from scoring: 3-1. After six clean sheets in a row, Ajax finally gave up a goal.

The last word of the day belonged to Suarez. Enoh served up the ball to the Uruguayan, who then padded his lead in the scoring rankings with his 27th goal. Although the game at that point was already as good as won, his pleasure was none the less for it. Suarez also realized that the chance of his first championship with Ajax increased dramatically after Sunday’s match.

Ajax will surely follow the PSV – Twente match next Saturday with keen interest. The following day, Ajax will visit RKC. They’ll have to make do without the suspended Alderweireld, Vertonghen and De Zeeuw. Jol: “That’s a shame, because that’s our defensive core. We’ll have to try to solve that in the coming week.”