Reigning national champion Ajax has begun the new season true to form as favourite for the title. With a respectable 3-0 win over Roda JC, who didn’t stand a chance in the Amsterdam ArenA. Afterwards manager Frank de Boer happily noted that Ajax now has two more points than they did after last season’s opening match.
The opening match of the Eredivisie last Friday was completely sold out. Nevertheless the ArenA was not completely filled. It’s possible that a number of the over 42,000 season ticket holders are still on holiday. Or perhaps they were concerned about the predicted heat, but that was not an issue for either the supporters or the players. The stadium’s roof was open and the temperature was considerably lower than last week, when Ajax won the Johan Cruijff Plate in almost tropical conditions.
One week after the season’s overture against AZ the Amsterdam players won on home ground again. This time Roda JC was the victim, in a match in which Ajax had the upper hand for virtually the entire ninety minutes. The opponent from Limburg fought valiantly, but barely posed a threat. Given, they were awarded a penalty in the second half because of some jersey tugging by Daley Blind, but Wiljan Pluim kicked the ball high over the goal from the penalty spot. This meant Kenneth Vermeer kept a clean sheet after a penalty for the fifth consecutive time, although of course he didn’t need to put any effort into it.
He did need to make an effort however only a few minutes into the first half of the match, when said Pluim evaded Ajax’ defence and kicked the ball straight into Vermeer’s arms. It was the first serious shot on goal of the match. The second followed almost immediately after. Christian Eriksen took the shot from the edge of the penalty box, but his free kick ended up on the crossbar, having been deflected by Roda’s wall. The thousands of Ajax supporters, who had jumped up, could remain standing as only seconds later, Ajax scored 1-0. It was Ricardo van Rhijn, who scored his first goal in the Eredivisie. He was a little lucky, if the truth be told, because after a free kick by Eriksen the ball was punched away by Roda goalie Kurto consequently landing right at Van Rhijn’s feet. All he had to do then was tap the ball in. That’s what is known as child’s play.
Significantly more beautiful was the 2-0 by attacker Siem de Jong, after thirty minutes of play. The way in which Eriksen assisted him was delectable. The young Dane got his team captain free in front of the goalkeeper with an incisive through pass, after which De Jong kicked the ball into the corner cool, calm and collectedly. According to Frank de Boer this goal came about by applying pressure early on, the way he likes to see it done. ,,We did that well. Roda broke out at times, but often they didn’t realise it themselves’’, he remarked after the match.
The first half, in which no more goals were scored, was satisfactory for the manager. ,,We played well. We dominated and created many opportunities’’, he said. He wasn’t nearly as pleased with the second half, in which he felt Ajax failed to respond for around ten minutes. ,,We became sloppy. We lost possession of the ball clumsily a couple of times. At times like that you have to simplify your game, but we chose the wrong solution too many times and allowed Roda to get into the match. We should have ended it quicker.’’
Ajax was indeed sometimes unlucky when shooting on goal. The football managers Gertjan Verbeek and Ronald Koeman also witnessed that. They had travelled to Amsterdam to analyse their upcoming opponent. Verbeek’s AZ is playing Ajax next week and Koeman faces Ajax the week after with Feyenoord.
They also saw how Bojan and Blind both came close to scoring. But one of them hit Kurto’s fists, while the other one kicked the ball over the goal. Blind was shown the yellow card a little later for causing a penalty, which, as mentioned earlier, did not result in a counter goal. After the penalty Ajax pulled itself together and went in search of the 3-0 with great conviction. Especially Viktor Fischer, who took several shots on goal from the left. Most times without any luck, until ten minutes before time. Then he could simply tap in the ball, after Siem de Jong had hit the post in the rebound.
It was the ending of an entertaining evening in the Amsterdam ArenA. An evening in which Ajax took a tiny step towards the ultimate goal of this season: to become national champion for the fourth time running. The victory did come with some faults, as De Boer pointed out, but over all he was happy. ,,At least we have two more points now than we did after last season’s opening match. The first half in particular was good. We must continue from there.’’