Ajax took care of business on Sunday. The current national champions posted a simple win while visiting RKC Waalwijk: 0-2. Niklas Moisander and Christian Eriksen scored both Ajax goals before the break. Thanks to this win, Ajax is on firmer ground in second place of the Eredivisie rankings.
One week after a disappointing tie against Roda JC, Ajax made up for it against RKC in the race for the title. However, the twelve points that Frank de Boer had been aiming for leading up to the top match against FC Twente, will not be reached. But, with a good result against ADO Den Haag next week, the counter could still reach ten out of twelve points. And thanks to Twente’s (tie with Willem II) and Feyenoord’s (3-2 loss to PEC Zwolle) loss of points, Ajax even has even made up three points against both competitors.
The match in Waalwijk was sandwiched between the double UEFA Europa League confrontations against Steaua Bucharest. Ajax posted a convincing 2-0 win against the Romanians last Thursday in the ArenA. The return match in Romania awaits Ajax on Thursday, as they have the chance to qualify for the round of sixteen.
As expected, Ajax appeared with a completely different offense compared to the match against Steaua Bucharest. Youngsters Viktor Fischer, Isaac Cuenca and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson were granted some rest in Waalwijk given the packed agenda. Siem de Jong thus started as centre forward, while Jody Lukoki and Derk Boerrigter (ex- RKC) were posted on the wings.
Kenneth Vermeer returned to Ajax’s goal. Last Thursday, the keeper retired early from the game due to an injury, but he was fit enough to keep his one hundredth Eredivisie match. Niklas Moisander (200 competition matches) and substitute Kolbeinn Sigthórsson (50) were also celebrating milestones. Moisander added a cherry on his cake in his 200th match by scoring midway through the first half. The Fin shot the ball in at close range from a Christian Eriksen corner kick.
It was Eriksen who also played a starring role shortly before the break. On the left side of the field, he set up a beautiful solo in which RKC defender Michael Lamey and keeper Jeroen Zoet were simply extras. The finish was as beautiful as it was controlled, with a strategically placed shot aimed precisely into the corner of the goal: 0-2.
Enjoying a comfortable lead, Ajax didn’t need to do much more before halftime. Conserving resources and remaining injury free were the motto of the second forty-five minutes, with the midweek return against Steaua looming on the horizon. But still, Ajax didn’t manage to play out the rest of the match calmly. An RKC penalty kick after an hour of play proved to be the tipping point. Because although Robert Braber’s sloppy shot was turned away by Vermeer, Ajax wasn’t able to get back into the game after that. De Boer was disappointed that Ajax didn’t provide a fitting answer to RKC’s opportunistic play. “There were many times when we could have calmly played the ball around, but we didn’t do that. We often made the wrong choices in the last half hour.”
Although RKC played more offensively in the last half hour, the home team couldn’t make anything happen. With only one goal scored in their last six matches, the Waalwijk team clearly has a problem. Substitute Mart Lieder had a chance to score a goal for the home team, but, face to face with Vermeer, the forward was neutralized. The keeper kept his goal clean. De Boer: “All things considered, this has been a fantastic weekend for us. We got three points, no goals against, and no injuries. With our doubled up schedule for the upcoming weeks, that’s especially fortunate.”