Ajax posted a key win against Roda JC on Sunday. The current national champion kept things exciting until the end in Limburg, but, thanks to two late goals from Christian Eriksen and substitute Lasse Schöne, Ajax went home with full points: 1-2.
Keeper Mateusz Prus, who had an outstanding game, finally had to surrender. The Roda keeper made things difficult for Ajax for a long time. It wasn’t until the final eight minutes that Ajax was able to turn their deficit into a lead, which will give them confidence going into the upcoming top match against PSV.
Beforehand, Frank de Boer had been curious as to how Ajax would react after the disappointing UEFA Champions League match. Last Wednesday’s 1-4 loss to Borussia Dortmund had taken its toll on the selection. But the desired ‘fresh legs’ were back very fast, as it appeared on Sunday afternoon in Kerkrade. “You never know how a selection will react to a defeat like that. But after a good opening phase, I had faith again. We were threatening and we had three opportunities in the first ten minutes.”
Still, the lack of power at the front was evident in Kerkrade. Since Ryan Babel has become unavailable, Ajax has had trouble pulling the trigger. Ajax thus didn’t manage to score before the break for the third time in a row. Ajax had no shortage of opportunities, but they didn’t lead to goals. Even Danny Hoesen, who scored just last week against VVV-Venlo and Borussia Dortmund, couldn’t seal his competition debut in the basis with a goal. Ajax was playing with mourning bands since the passing of member of honour André Kraan (85) last Friday.
When Hoesen was relieved by Lasse Schöne after 63 minutes, Ajax had been looking at a 1-0 deficit for about an hour. The early goal against was initiated by a sloppy loss of possession by Daley Blind. Guus Hupperts appeared at the edge of the Amsterdam team’s box, after which the Limburg player struck. Despite a strong opening phase, Ajax was put in the position of playing catch-up. Siem de Jong created the most danger before the break, although the best opportunity was reserved for the home team. Fortunately for Ajax, Krisztián Németh’s aim wasn’t at its sharpest when he got an opportunity in the 6th minute to make the score 2-0. Roda’s forward shot wide.
After the break, Ajax had more opportunities. De Jong – again – substitute Joël Veltman (in for Toby Alderweireld as a precautionary measure) and Hoesen all came close to tying the game. One minute before his substitution, it was Hoesen who had the best chance to score the 1-1 goal. The forward was allowed to take a shot from close by, but was foiled by Roda keeper Prus. With an outstanding reflex, the Polish goalie stopped a potential Ajax goal.
Deep into the second half, Ajax finally scored. Christian Eriksen broke the tie eight minutes before the end with a well-deserved 1-1 goal. The Danish midfielder gave the final kick on an attack that he had set up with fellow Dane Viktor Fischer. One minute after Roda had made the defensive substitution of van Wielaert for Malki to lock up the game, Eriksen broke the duel wide open. And that inspired Ajax to go further. With a showdown against PSV impending, Ajax didn’t want to have any damage in the southernmost point of the Netherlands.
And that damage was avoided. Substitute Schöne crowned himself match winner by scoring the winning goal in the 88th minute. His shot gave Ajax the 2-1 win. Just in front of the full visitors’ stand, a huge celebration broke out. Everyone realized how valuable Schöne’s goal was. The victory against Roda JC ensured that the upcoming showdown against PSV in the ArenA will be a charged one.