After the 4-1 home win last week against Vitesse, Ajax has also won its first away match. Coach Frank de Boer’s team defeated AZ after a halftime score of 0-1 in Alkmaar. Davy Klaassen, Lasse Schöne and substitute Anwar El Ghazi scored the goals.
Coach Frank de Boer had made some changes to his team compared to the opening against Vitesse in three spots. World Cup players Daley Blind and Jasper Cillessen made their return to the squad, at the expense of Kenneth Vermeer and Thulani Serero. A surprise decision for Kolbeinn Sigthórsson at centre forward came at the expense of Arek Milik. The total number of former AZ players in Ajax’s set-up was three. In addition to the centre forward, Niklas Moisander and Nick Viergever also share a past in Alkmaar. It was especially nice for Viergever, as AZ officially said goodbye to him before kick-off. The farewell was more for the benefit of the club people than for the fans, as the process took place quietly on the sidelines.
But Ajax’s play was anything but subdued. In a dark and wet Alkmaar, the Amsterdam team was faced with an AZ storm in the early minutes – during which Tankovic, on an unintentional pass from Boilesen, had a good opportunity – but after that, Ajax, under the lead of Daley Blind, came up dangerously. The World Cup player sprinkled great passes around, but it was Ricardo Kishna who was unable to translate these great passes into goals. The winger was blocked by keeper Esteban twice in the opening minutes of the game.
After fifteen minutes of playing, Ajax took the lead. Blind passed towards Lasse Schöne, who found Davy Klaassen on the right. Under the watchful eye of, among others, his brother and father, Klaassen finished beautifully: 0-1. After that, the match became a great one in which both North Holland teams had several opportunities. Jan Wuytens’ header disappeared just wide of Cillessen’s goal, and unfortunately, in the 33rd minute, Sigthórsson, after stumbling, didn’t manage to get back on his feet. Had the Icelander been able to do that, he would have been in perfect position to slide the ball under Esteban. Shortly before the break, Steven Berghuis had the best opportunity. Cillessen was only just able to turn away the slippery ball.
When play resumed after halftime, the Dutch national team’s keeper came up short against a Berghuis attempt. The quick winger tied the game for the home team in the fiftieth minute. The visitors didn’t give up in the slightest, and, as Viergever had announced before the match, Ajax clearly wasn’t prepared to settle for a tie. And the team made good on those words. A goal came only five minutes later. Nicolai Boilesen took a beautiful shot, but it hit the crossbar. Klaassen came close to scoring as well in the sixtieth minute as well. In this phase, Schöne was taking corner after corner. Finally, it wasn’t a corner kick that brought Ajax into the lead, but an individual play by the Danish veteran. In the seventieth minute, he stormed up ahead on the left, passing several AZ players with ease, and shot the ball into the far corner: 1-2.
Now it was AZ who was determined not to let their first home game end in a loss. Ajax thus had some room to play, and in the 74th minute, Sighthórsson headed towards Esteban alone. But it was too much distance for the centre forward to cover, and his good intentions soon fumbled. It was a nail-biter in Alkmaar for a long time. In addition to Sigthórsson’s opportunities, a few other players had opportunities as well to decide the match earlier on.
minutes before time, the agreed upon substitution took place. Daley Blind, who has been building up after the World Cup, was replaced by Thulani Serero. He saw from nearby how Sigthórsson had charged towards Esteban, but yet again, the Ajax player was forced to concede. The keeper was faced with more Ajax threats. In the last official minute, Sigthórsson passed to substitute Anwar El Ghazi, who sent a beautiful shot into the upper corner, sealing the game.
After the first two games against Vitesse and AZ, Ajax has six points more than the same point last season, when Ajax –Vitesse and AZ – Ajax were both defeats. “I’m pleased”, said De Boer afterwards. “Although we could have scored the 1-2 sooner and possibly could have had a 1-4 instead of 1-3.” His colleague Marco van Basten though the outcome was fair. “We lost 1-3, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. Ajax won fair and square.”