Ajax’s record remains spotless in the Eredivisie 2015-2016. Ajax extended its unbeaten streak against NEC (0-2). The Amsterdam team has not suffered a goal against in three competition matches so far this season.
Ajax faced NEC on the eve of the important European return against FK Jablonec. On Thursday, a spot in the UEFA Europa League pool phase needs to be earned at the expense of the Czech team. Three days before the match in Nijmegen, Ajax posted a 1-0 win against Jablonec in the ArenA.
Compared to that home game, Frank de Boer had changed his line-up in two places. Ricardo van Rhijn replaced right back Kenny Tete. This last player had earned a spot in the provisional selection for the Dutch national team on Friday. The same was true of Jairo Riedewald; however, the central defender did keep his starting spot in the Goffertstadion. Lasse Schöne replaced Daley Sinkgraven on the left flank. The Amsterdam squad was thus provided with extra experience. These ingredients will certainly be of use to the Amsterdam team next Thursday in the Czech Republic.
Reigning national champion PSV played to its second draw of this young season on Saturday. The Eindhoven team ended its match against sc Heerenveen in a 1-1 tie. The opportunity for Ajax, undefeated so far, to increase its lead on PSV was an additional motivation on Sunday in the sold-out Goffertstadion. The prospect of a third win with another clean sheet, must have been very motivating for Jasper Cillessen against his former club. Only in the 1967-1968 and 1995-1996 season has Ajax won its first three competition duels without giving up any goals against.
But Ajax and NEC didn’t differ much in the first half. The best Amsterdam opportunities came from Davy Klaassen and Arek Milik. The captain found the Icelandic NEC keeper Hannes Halldórsson in his way in the opening minutes. Milik’s attempt was also blocked by the Icelandic international. At least, it was at first. The Pole was able to take another shot after Halldórsson’s save. This time, the attempt landed on the head of NEC captain Rens van Eijden, via the post. Schöne sent a free kick onto the roof of the goal.
The best opportunities before the break were thus for the visitors, whose play was anything but frivolous. Kristján Emilsson showed that NEC was not to be underestimated. After half an hour, he shot the ball wide of the goal at close range. Until then, the club’s only other opportunity had been a weak shot by Mohamed Rayhi.
Shortly after the break, Milik finally gave the Ajax fans who had made the trip something to cheer about. The Pole opened the second half with a spot-on hard shot: 0-1. The fact that the Amsterdam fans then started chanting ‘they’re getting football lessons’ spoke volumes. There was no shortage of Amsterdam humor or cynicism. De Boer’s team hadn’t given its own supporters much to cheer about until that 0-1 goal.
Ajax attempted to force the last Jupiler League champion to complete capitulation, but this took longer than expected. With substitutes Viktor Fischer (for Schöne) Sinkgraven (for Anwar El Ghazi) and Tete (Van Rhijn), the hunt for the liberating second Ajax goal was ramped up. Fischer was Ajax’s attacker on the left flank, and Sinkgraven attacked on the right flank.
In the end, substitute Sinkgraven forced NEC’s Van Eijden into scoring an own goal, just before time. Four minutes before the end of official playing time, the victory was ensured. With this 0-2 win, Ajax maintained its unbeaten status. The fact that the Amsterdam team once again kept a clean sheet gave the win some extra glory. With this achievement, De Boer follows in the footsteps of his legendary predecessors Rinus Michels and Louis van Gaal. And that is nothing to be cynical about.