Ajax posted a generous win against Sparta Rotterdam on Saturday evening. The home team wasn’t always spectacular, but, with a bit of help from the opponent, a generous 4-0 final score resulted. 2 own goals by the opponents and goals by David Neres and Hakim Ziyech sealed a simple win.
The evening started with an impressive tribute to Eberhard van de Laan. The Amsterdam ArenA showed its appreciation of the much-loved mayor with one minute of applause. In addition to that, a bouquet of flowers adorned a seat in the Royal Lodge. ‘Captain of Amsterdam’, was the text on the framed captain’s band.
Compared to the away victory against Heerenveen (0-2), Marcel Keizer didn’t make any changes to his squad. Max Wöber and Matthijs de Ligt formed the central duo, while David Neres and Klaas Jan Huntelaar got the nod above Justin Kluivert and Kasper Dolberg.
It was Huntelaar’s 100th game for Ajax in the Eredivisie. Within 5 minutes, the 34 year-old striker proved why coaches continue to start him. He cleverly lurked for opportunities, seized his chance on a ball that Sparta goalie Roy Kortsmit hadn’t played back far enough, and almost scored. But the opening goal didn’t come immediately, despite a too short lob from the anniversary-celebrating player.
Ajax struggled to convert its dominance on the field into good opportunities. Hakim Ziyech, Donny van de Beek and Lasse Schöne attempted to reach the forwards, but this proved to be difficult. Swift combinations at midfield stranded as soon as the opponent’s goal was in sight. A free header by Matthijs van de Ligt was the highlight of the first half hour.
Ajax’s difficulties in playing resulted in a bold stance by Sparta. The visitors created the first danger via Leroy Duarte. He saw his good back-heel shot get played away by Joël Veltman. A bit later, Loris Brogno made André Onana struggle. Sparta’s scoring problem was fortunate for the Amsterdam team…
Just before halftime, the Ajacieds received help from an unexpected source. Ryan Sanusi shot a curving corner kick by Lasse Schöne into his own goal. This didn’t cause a great celebration, but a discussion between Schöne and Hakim Ziyech spoke volumes; they needed to play better in the second half.
Rotterdam on its toes
The discussions after the goal, and during the break, created some changes on Ajax’s playing style. The 2nd goal took a while to come, but Donny van de Beek (shot), Wöber (header) and Huntelaar (1 on 1) weren’t sharp enough.
The Rotterdam team was successful in what the Ajacieds were unable to do: score against the Sparta keeper, Kortsmit. Sherel Floranus provided the visitors’ second goal. The defender ran up with Neres, saw Huntelaar’s pass, and sent the ball against the ropes of his own goal: 2-0. The disbelief was great, while Neres and Huntelaar celebrated cautiously.
True celebration for Ajax
Neres’ true celebration ensued in the 73rd minute. The quick Brazilian was sent in deep, and sent the ball slightly to the sideline, and then ran at lightning speed to the near corner. Finally, an Ajax goal that the crowd could whole heartedly celebrate. Smiling broadly, the right winger ran towards the crowd to celebrate.
Ajax was heading for a simple win. Hakim Ziyech, playing well, proved to be unreachable and ensured both the 3-0 and 4-0 goals. His long-distance shot, which had changed directions on Amin Younes’ back, fit perfectly into the match’s picture.
Would everything go Ajax’s way? Unfortunately, not for Kasper Dolberg. The substitute missed his penalty kick, ensured by Amin Younes, in extra time. It was a small mark on an otherwise good evening for Marcel Keizer and company. A nice lead-up to next week’s Classic.