Eleven Ajax players disposed easily of ten ADO Den Haag opponents in the last competition match before the winter break, on Sunday. In a match that was heavily influenced by an early red card, the Amsterdam team didn’t even need to exert itself much: 4-0. If they beat AZ in the upcoming midweek match, Ajax will remain a contender for three prizes.
With Ajax’s core supporters flowing in (Vak410 and the F-Side didn’t take their seats until the 14th minute, as a protest), ADO Den Haag was down to ten men after ten minutes. A senseless and unnecessary charge by Ramon Leeuwin – two legs out on Christian Eriksen – was punished with a red card by referee Kevin Blom. Eleven Ajax player thus had eighty minutes to bring their opponents to the slaughterhouse. With all fans in their places, Christian Eriksen brought the crowd to cheers after nineteen minutes. After Miralem Sulejmnani’s artistic heel pass to Nicolás Lodeiro, the young Danish player made Ajax’s lead concrete: 1-0.
Ricardo van Rhijn was accorded a spot on Frank de Boer’s starting eleven. After his away debut in the cup tournament against VV Noordwijk, the central defenseman made his first home and competition debut against ADO. Toby Alderweireld, who normally is the right footed defender in the defensive heart, was a spectator on Sunday due to injury. In addition to Van Rhijn, Aras Ozbiliz was another surprising name on the starting list. The forward winger replaced Lorenzo Ebecilio, who has been ill for the last few days. Derk Boerrigter returned as a substitute player after being injured for some time. The left winger remained on the bench.
Before the break, Ajax had sufficient opportunity to distance themselves even more from the Den Haag team. A mix of laziness, sloppiness and bad luck stood in the way of more Ajax goals. Attempts by Vurnon Anita (side net), Van Rhijn (wide header) and Sulejmani (wide) didn’t come to fruition. ADO’s ten men met their opponent’s numeric advantage with a single attempt from Tjarron Chery. The winger made a surprise attack, but Kenneth Vermeer protected his short corner perfectly. The team from Den Haag didn’t get further than aggregated defending in the ArenA. Prevention was the priority for coach Maurice Steijn’s team, which incidentally has been in great form during the last few weeks.
ADO Den Haag certainly didn’t come anywhere near their performance from last season. The eventual national champion was defeated twice by the club from Den Haag. Ajax’s dominant possession (60/40 after 30 minutes, and Ajax’s percentage increased later on) illustrated the on field balance in this edition of Ajax – ADO.
Within the hour, Theo Janssen succeeded to translate the numeric advantage into a bigger lead. Sulejmani played to the midfielder with an effective ball, after which Janssen, with a short dribble, finished off with a low shot into the far corner: 2-0. In the rest of the match, which was getting somewhat messy, the substitutions were surprising. Eyong Enoh, Lodeiro and the dizzy Anita (after a hit to his face) left the field. Thulani Serero, Dmitry Bulykin and Dico Koppers came in as fresh reinforcements.
“You hope that you’ll get a spring in your step after the 2-0 goal”, said Frank de Boer during the press conference. “But we became even sloppier. As if we ran out of steam. Fortunately for the crowd, we scored two more goals. But after the 2-0, I found it odd that, against ten men, our play wasn’t worthy of Ajax. Fortunately we kept a clean sheet and ADO didn’t get any more chances.”
Six minutes after coming onto the field, substitute Bulykin helped his team to 3-0. It wasn’t too difficult for him. The Russian Ajax man was brought into position by the exceptional Eriksen. ADO was thus beaten, long and wide. Just as Eriksen, Sulejmani can also look back on an excellent performance. The Serbian player scored Ajax’s last competition goal in the 2011 championship year shortly before the end.
“2011 had ups-and-downs. Because of injuries, we haven’t been able to gel as a team”, said De Boer. The Ajax man closed the press conference by looking ahead to the first competition match of the new year. “If you win the first match of 2012 at AZ, everything suddenly looks very different.”