Ajax posted a well-earned win against PSV on Saturday evening. The hungrier of the two warriors overpowered the Eindhoven team convincingly: 3-1. “We should be proud of the play we showed today”, said a satisfied Frank de Boer afterwards.
De Boer placed his confidence with the same eleven players as he had last week for the away match against Roda JC. One week after the ‘morally reinforcing’ 1-2 Ajax win (Ajax came back from a 1-0 deficit in the closing minutes to snag the win), Danny Hoesen once again got the nod as centre forward. “We can get to 9 points, but we can also get to 3 points”, said the Ajax coach beforehand, describing the huge stakes of this home game for his team. In order to ensure the best opportunities to stay in the race for the title, Ajax simply needed to win three points in the always important top match against PSV. Three days before what will undoubtedly be a difficult Champions League match against Real Madrid, this assignment promised to be anything but simple.
Ajax opened the match strongly. Before the break, there was only one team which was truly in the match – the home team. Toby Alderweireld nearly scored the opening goal within ten minutes. The Belgian sent his header, on a Christian Eriksen corner, hard onto the crossbar. Hoesen proved himself to be hard-working as ever, just as he had against Roda JC. The centre forward was always ready to be a point of play, but also distinguished himself as the Ajax player to be stopped. The native of Limburg was just a nanosecond too slow in reacting when PSV keeper Boy Waterman let a ball (from another Eriksen corner) slip. Three minutes later, Ajax was rewarded for its hard work. Siem de Jong sent a spot-on header into the goal from a good Eriksen corner kick: 1-0.
After just under thirty minutes of play, Ajax had earned a well-deserved win. The Eredivisie leader didn’t have much of a reply during the entire evening. Advocaat had his team operating mostly reactively. Waterman stretching out the time was illustrative of the Eindhoven team’s approach. This earned him a reprimand from FIFA referee Björn Kuipers. PSV appeared to have come to the ArenA to try to disrupt Ajax’s play and to hope for a counter – as the case was last year.
Five minutes after De Jong’s opening goal, Daley Blind served up a great opportunity for Derk Boerrigter. The left back persevered well and robbed the ball from Atiba Hutchinson, after which Boerrigter ineptly sent his shot past the goal. Opportunities such as that one are scarce in top duels. Ajax was quite sloppy with them during the entire match. Two minutes later, the home team was put in a disappointing position; rather than being in a comfortable 2-0 lead, the guests pulled even.
Careless work from Ricardo van Rhijn brought possession to Jeremain Lens. Ajax’s former youth player pivoted the ball cleverly past Van Rhijn and over Kenneth Vermeer into the far corner. The tying goal (1-1) contrasted heavily with the relative strength that both teams had been showing on the field. By scoring on their first real opportunity, Dick Advocaat’s team had struck a deadly blow. After Lens’ artwork, Ajax seemed to squander opportunities. Fischer shot wide, while Boerrigter shot onto Waterman’s fists. Both teams kept the score in balance until the break.
Last season, Ajax dealt quite well with PSV. Ajax crowned what was possibly its best game of the season with a 2-0 victory. Ajax was spared a failure such as the one they had had during the season opener for the Johan Cruijff Plate. The reigning national champions from Amsterdam had been outclassed and outmanned by the Eindhoven cup holder. The 4-2 loss acted as a false start to the season for Frank de Boer’s men.
But Ajax didn’t let things go that far this time. De Boer’s men and boys had paid their dues after the disappointing season opener. Shortly after the break, Blind forced a save from Waterman. Later during this exciting match, Fischer sent his shot wide. Ajax seemed poised to take the lead again, but held its collective breath when Lens had a wide berth towards Vermeer. The Eindhoven centre forward also appeared in front of the Ajax player, after which Lens sent his shot wide.
The 51.064 spectators in the sold out Amsterdam ArenA held their breath but enjoyed a creative play by Fischer. The Dane closed a fantastic slalom past five PSV players with an assist to Hoesen. The centre forward was at the right place at the right time: 2-1. Lens’ missed opportunity and Hoesen’s goal – within one minute- was the key turning point of this Ajax-PSV match.
Fischer crowned his shining performance with a goal. In the closing minutes, the left winger personally brought Ajax the 3-1 win. Ajax posted a solid, well-earned win. Ajax keeps PSV (three points ahead of the Amsterdam team) and new leader FC Twente in its sights. The competition is once again a nail-biter.
“We had the attributes to dominate the top duels, and didn’t rob anyone tonight”, said Frank de Boer about the stunning top match. “We started out with the approach to put PSV under constant pressure. We did that for eighty minutes. We can be proud of that. Let’s hope that we can do this again.”