This season, Ajax has seldom had the luxury of heading to the dressing room at halftime with a comfortable lead. But, after a spectacular first half against SC Heerenveen, they were enjoying this privilege. The remarkable score at halftime, surprisingly, remained the same until the end of the game: 5-1.
There was no shortage of fantastic moments and goals during the first half of Ajax – Heerenveen. The beauties kept coming. Even the only SC Heerenveen goal – scored five minutes before halftime by Goran Popov – didn’t cloud the sky. The Ajax machine ran more smoothly and efficiently than ever before under coach Martin Jol’s lead.
The match was practically over within thirty minutes. Demy de Zeeuw laid a solid foundation by scoring two goals in the opening stages. After seven minutes of play, the midfielder subtly lifted the ball in his stride over Michel Breuer. De Zeeuw rounded off the play, helped by Vurnon Anita’s solid preparation work, firing a hard shot: 1-0. Fifteen minutes later, the Ajax player once again successfully pulled the trigger, this time lobbing the ball over Kritian Bak Nielsen, and leaving keeper Brian Vandenbussche hopeless.
Four minutes later, Marko Pantelic took centre stage. The Serbian player, forming an offensive duo with the remarkable Suarez, both started and ended a fluid attack. Pantelic’s conversion was reminiscent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Stefan Petersson, his illustrious Ajax predecessors. Ajax’s number 9 kept a cool head, waiting for his chance, which came when he saw an opening in Vandenbussche’s goal. His shot went directly into the goal: 3-0. Vandenbussche was working overtime, just in the first half. In contrast, his fellow keeper on the other end of the field was still waiting to be tested. Maarten Stekelenburg didn’t make his first save until shortly before halftime. It was hardly a difficult one, as the save was made on a harmless shot from Victor Elm, which landed directly in the Dutch International’s hands.
Luis Suarez naturally participated in the fun with a goal of his own. The Uruguayan player was hauled down in the penalty box by Oussama Assaïdi. The Ajax captain didn’t pass up his chance to score his seventeenth Eredivisie goal from twelve yards out: 4-0. One minute after Popov’s goal, Aissati tapped in his own goal, bringing the score to 5-1 before halftime. The midfielder has enjoyed a successful comeback into Ajax 1, after being out since mid October with a muscle injury. The offensive and creative midfielder crowned his successful recovery period with his goal against the Friesian team. With applause ringing in their ears, the Ajax players retreated to the lockers after the first half.
,,The game went smoothly in the first half, especially where ball possession was concerned”, said Martin Jol in the press conference. ,,I don’t know if it was our best first half of the season. We had a pretty good first half against both NAC and ADO Den Haag.”
Aissati was substituted for Miralem Sulejmani halfway through the, understandably less productive, second half. Gabri was already on the field, having come in for Eyong Enoh, as the Serbian player joined in. The smoothly running Ajax engine started to sputter. Was it due to lack of concentration, or were they simply resting on their laurels? Heerenveen enjoyed space to play more freely. Shortly after play resumed, the team from Friesland missed three golden opportunities to narrow the gap with Ajax.
Ajax continued to create opportunities, but didn’t build their substantial lead any more. Suarez wasn’t able to return to the top form he enjoyed during the first half. The captain, wearing shocking green boots, didn’t make good on several opportunities to further pad his leading position as the Eredivisie’s top scorer. Fellow forward Pantelic was unlucky in his completion. The Serbian player even came one on one against Vandenbussche, but saw his shot disappear wide of the goal. During the game, Pantelic proved himself as a solid pivot in attack.
,,What’s remarkable is that we created more opportunities in the second half, eleven in total, than in the first”, assessed Jol. ,,It’s a shame for the crowd that there were no more goals. Of course, we can’t complain, with a score like this we have to be pleased. Everyone enjoyed playing, which is important too.”
,,Ajax showed today with real style that they are a credible championship contender”, complimented Heerenveen coach Jan de Jonge Ajax on their well deserved win. ,,Especially in the first half, we were completely trampled by a fantastic Ajax. We simply weren’t good enough for Ajax.”
This is how a rarely seen 5-1 scored graced the scoreboard after ninety minutes. A repeat of the scenario from 1950 wasn’t in the cards. On May 7, 1950 the score was also 1-5 at the Heerenveen-Ajax match. Under “Us” Abe Lenstra’s lead, Heerenveen made up the deficit and turned the game into a sensational victory. 59 years later, Heerenveen came nowhere close to repeating this feat, thanks to Ajax’s great performance before halftime.