Ajax defeated De Graafschap by a wide margin in stadium de Vijverberg on Saturday night: 0-5. That result suggests an easy win, but coach Ronald Koeman did not agree. Ajax could not break through the tough defence in Doetinchem in the first half. But shortly after halftime, Julien Escudé found a gap in De Graafschap's defence. Soon, Rosales, Escudé again, Babel and Galásek helped their team to 0-5. Ajax seems back on track, and only three days before an important match in the UEFA Champions League, that bodes well.
De Graafschap, last in the Holland Casino Eredivisie, did not look like too big a hurdle. But statistics showed that Ajax did not have an easy time in Doetinchem the past seasons. Three times in four seasons, the side drew in the away match. And also, opponents such as De Graafschap tend to dig in when Ajax come to town. The Ajax players are never given any room, so it is hard to find an opening to score.
Ajax anticipated that and practiced the day before with an defensive-minded opponent in mind. On Friday, the offensive team hardly got through. Ajax were on the offensive on Saturday, but kept running into the wall that De Graafschap had pulled up before the own goal. ,,In the first half we did not play near striker Yannis Anastasiou enough'', coach Ronald Koeman said. ,,I also thought Maxwell played too passively in midfield. And we did not get enough from our wings. We had a lot of corner kicks in the first half, but they did not help us either.''
De Graafschap patiently waited for a counter attack, which of course came. After 20 minutes, Julien Escudé headed back to Hans Vonk unluckily. The defender did not head it into the goalkeeper's hands, but hit the post and the ball went over the end line. From the resulting corner kick, Maxwell had to save the ball from the line. It was the biggest chance on either side in the first half.
After halftime, Koeman let Ryan Babel and Rafael van der Vaart warm up. It was still 0-0 and the coach wanted to bring some more offensive power. But quickly into the second half, Ajax were on target. Julien Escudé headed the ball in from a corner kick and De Graafschap's defence was finally broken. And so was their resistance. Six minutes later Mauro Rosales slid in the ball at the second post, 0-2. Koeman sent Van der Vaart back to the bench: the captain was to be spared for the important match against Juventus next Tuesday.
Escudé, who played a good game, came forward again. And again he hit. ,,I was surprised myself, with the two goals'', the French defender said. ,,The first goal came at the right time, because it was the first one. And scoring again... I've never done that before, only in training. But it's more important that we won and got three points. For myself, I hope to do this more often.''
Ryan Babel was given some playing time next. ,,Babel is a different type of striker than Anastasiou'', Koeman explained. ,,There was very little space up front and I thought Anastasiou was offside too often. I have to say that he got little support from midfield. But Babel is talented and he has done a good job lately, so I let him try.''
Babel thanked his coach with one of his first touches. He received the ball at about 25 metres out, turned and fired: 0-4. ,,If they give you room, you have to shoot and not try to make any more moves'', Babel said. ,,I won't forget this match any time soon, this was my first goal for Ajax 1. I'm getting used to be in the final squad, because I train with them regularly. I work hard and do my best to get into the first team, that's my goal.''
Tomás Galásek made the last goal: 0-5. ,,You know these kind of teams can keep up for a long time'', Koeman said. ,,But you also know that when you make that first goal, they cannot keep up anymore. That's what you saw today. But you have to get that first one in. On the basis of the second half, we won easily.'' The coach sounded releived with the large win. ,,We live from match to match. Not everything has gone well the past weeks.'' From Sunday, all attention is on Tuesday, when Ajax play 'Juve' in Turin. It must be easier to prepare with such a comfortable win in the pocket.