Ajax saved a poor Cup performance at the last minute with beautiful finish. The team from Amsterdam needed overtime against FC Dordrecht to ensure themselves of a spot in the fourth round of the KNVB Cup. Urby Emanuelson’s two goals at the Krommendijk were worth their weight in gold. After their Cup match win against AGOVV Apeldoorn (2-1), Ajax once again faced an opponent from the Jupiler League in the fourth round of the KNVB Cup. To stay in the running for an 18th KNVB Cup, Ajax needed to win. They had a tough time in Dordrecht, just as they had had in Apeldoorn. But Ajax ended a difficult evening with a cautious smile as they left the field.
Martin Jol’s starting team had two changes from Sunday’s win against AZ (2-4). This time, Luis Suarez and Toby Alderweireld started off on the bench. Oleguer (central defender) and forward Dario Cvitanich had the opportunity to show what they can do. Demy de Zeeuw reported ill on match day, and his place was filled at the last minute by Mitchell Donald.
Ajax weren’t convincing in the messy first half. Especially their supply to the front line didn't develop. Dario Cvitanich fought his duels far our in front, but was consistently unlucky, or too clumsy in his finishes. Wingers Miralem Sulejmani and Dennis Rommendahl/Kennedy – the Danish player had to leave the field midway through the first half, with a suspected hamstring injury- had a difficult time with FC Dordrecht’s physically strong back line. Spectator Darko Bodul must have reached the same conclusion after the first 45 minutes. There was little to enjoy at the Krommendijk for the Ajax player, who plays for Sparta on a loan out basis.
Referee Liesveld’s sloppy performance had an impact on the match. His decisions were often inconsistent, and difficult to follow. What was tolerated on one end of the field, earned a whistle or even a yellow card on the opposite side a few moments later. Even a hand ball in the penalty box from ex-Ajax player Didi Longuet went unpunished.
Of course, Ajax’s inability to create opportunities during the first half was mostly their own doing. Their inconsistent and ineffective first half played right into the Jupiler league team’s hands.
In fact, the opponents were the ones who were threatening. In the first half, Martin Stekelenburg made two good saves, which staved off a deficit for Ajax. “Steek” kept his cool during Johan Versluis’ free kick, and, later, forward Genero Zeefuik’s shot. Dordrecht lost their league match 3-0 to Telstar last Friday, but in this knock out match against Ajax, they didn’t lack confidence; on the contrary, they played solid, aggressive football in their cosy home stadium.
Suarez’s rest was limited to the first half. Ajax needed a point man in front. The Uruguayan player replaced Cvitanich after halftime. Unconsciously, Suarez’s presence created an immediate impact in the game. Less than one minute into the second half, Miralem Sulejmani’s made a solid pass to Urby Emanuelson. The lefty had helped his team to a quick lead: 0-1.
“1-0 came from one of our few good attacks”, said Jol. “Dordrecht just didn’t let us attack, and they are more accustomed to playing on this field. Urby’s creative touch helped us to 1-0.”
Ajax seemed to pick their game up after this goal, but they remained vigilant against dangerous initiatives from Gert Kruys’team. Stekelenburg blocked attempts from Nick Coster and Moussa Kalisse. But on the home team’s third try after halftime, the international had no response. Kalisse cut through Ajax’s defense, and Stekelenburg remained on his line, as the tying goal sailed past him. The GN Bouw Stadion was suddenly full of hope for an upset in this Cup match.
For the home team, going to overtime was a moral victory. With an eye on the looming showdown in the ArenA against Feyenoord, Ajax could have used their wasted, but necessary, reinforcements more productively…the “Suarez effect” ended up being insufficient in regular time.
Kennedy had the best chance to bring Ajax into the lead during overtime. After a pass from hard working, effective Sulejmani, the Swede placed the oddly bouncing ball at close range just over Stef Doedee’s goal. Later on, Suarez saw his free kick end up on the goal’s roof. Substitute Marko Pantelic was Martin Jol’s trump card in Krommendijk. The Serbian player came in for Kennedy in the second overtime. Gabri’s second yellow, therefore red, card reduced Ajax to ten men. Liesveld’s decision to punish the Ajax player with red seemed heavy handed.
However scrappy the match was, it ended on a high note. In the very last minute, Emanuelson curved his free kick, which landed neatly in the upper corner. The lefty earned his team a spot in the next Cup round. Hopefully, this average Cup match performance at theKrommendijk will make way for a successful match against Feyenoord in three days.
“Dordrecht was the better team today, but we are the ones advancing”, summarized Jol. “That’s what counts.” During the draw, match winner Emanuelson matched Ajax against the WHC amateurs. “After two tough Cup matches, we now have to show that we can also easily reach the next Cup round”, said the sharp shooting Ajax player.