Ajax ruled in the ArenA on Sunday. Marco van Basten's team defeated champions PSV by 4-1 and enjoyed the return of Enoh and Miralem Sulejmani.
With the resounding win against PSV, Ajax bounced back from the Cup defeat at the hands of FC Volendam on Wednesday. ,,This was a great win”, Marco van Basten said. ,,This gives us confidence for the upcoming matches. We started very well and in the phase that it became a little more difficult, we kept fighting. I have to give the team a compliment for that. The win was also a good way to say goodbye to Sjaak Wolfs. He deserved that.” The afternoon in the Amsterdam ArenA began with a minute of silence in honour of the former equipment manager, who died on Friday.
Eyong Enoh was in the starting lineup against PSV. The midfielder from Cameroon had recovered from a groin injury and kept Gabri on the bench. Dennis Rommedahl was also a starter. The Dane, in the past weeks often not in the match squad, played on the right wing. Luis Suarez began as the striker with Kennedy behind him.
The plan worked and Ajax had a great start. The home side had chances through Kennedy, Suarez and Rommedahl, but had to wait until the 27th minute to get what it had waited for for more than four and a half years: a home goal in a league match against PSV. It was Nicoale Mitea who scored in February of 2004, now it was Luis Suarez. The first goal was a beauty. Urby Emanuelson got the ball, went into the box, faked a shot and touched it to Dennis Rommedahl. The Dane found Luis Suarez, who fired it in: 1-0.
Ajax eased up a bit after the goal. ,,Then it became more difficult”, Van Basten said. ,,PSV took the initiative and forced us back. It stayed that way in the beginning of the second half.” Yet Ajax should have doubled their lead in that difficult period. Suarez missed when he was free before the PSV goal. PSV, with Danko Lazovic as an extra forward, stayed alive and equalised five minutes later. Oleguer appeared to be pulled down by Bakkal, but PSV were allowed to play on. Lazovic went by Kenneth Vermeer and touched it to the open Afellay: 1-1. Ajax were under pressure in that phase of the match, but Van Basten had an ace up his sleeve in Miralem Sulejmani. The Serbian forward replaced Rommedahl after an hour and made his first minutes since he suffered an injury against Feyenoord in September. In the 72nd minute Van Basten brought on Gabri for Kennedy and soon after Ajax went up 2-1. Again Emanuelson played a big part. He flashed by a defender and fired from the edge of the box. Goalkeeper Isaksson saved but Sulejmani scored in the rebound.
The second Ajax goal created an enormous outburst of joy in the ArenA. The home side were not be denied anymore. Ajax scored again in the 78th minute, when Suarez fired from the end line. Erik Pieters touched it into his own goal. In the last minute Leonardo, brought on for Suarez in the 87th minute, made it 4-1. He received the ball from Emanuelson, went by Pieters and shot the ball past Isaksson. For the first time in years, PSV had been brought to their knees in Amsterdam. ,,The substitutions paid off today”, Van Basten said. ,,Sulejmani scored, Leonardo scored and Gabri played well. It is important that the players who don't start could see that their role in the team is really vital.”
Ajax face AZ in Alkmaar next Sunday. The team can derive courage out of the fact that Sulejmani and Enoh made a successful return. ,,Enoh is an important factor. He wins many balls and is a good football player. Sulejmani gives the team extra potency. We have had to deal with many injuries in the past months. Sometimes it even was a matter of 'damage control'. But now that players return, we are only getting stronger”, Van Basten said.
Ajax now have 25 points from eleven matches and have taken the top position in the league for the first time this season. NAC have the same amount of points, but a lesser goal difference. FC Groningen and AZ (who drew 1-1 at Vitesse on Sunday) have 23 points.