Ajax didn’t take the easy wasy against Vitesse. Davy Klaassen scored the only goal in the Gelredome: 0-1. The excelling captain Klaassen was later forgiven for missing a penalty. Ajax remains flawless since the winter break, and is still well in sight of leader Feyenoord.
On Thursday, Joël Veltman had missed the European away game against Legia Warsaw due to illness. The fit-again defender returned to the selection of Peter Bosz – who is also a former Vitesse player and coach - on Sunday. Daley Sinkgraven went the opposite way to Veltman. The left back has been suffering from ankle problems since Thursday’s game in Poland, and the left-footed player was thus absent from this selection. Sinkgraven was replaced by Jairo Riedewald in the Gelredome. Or, more specifically, Nick Viergever was his replacement, and Riedewald took over Viergever’s spot in the centre of the defense.
The first quarter of Vitesse – Aajx was marked by a blocked Amin Younes shot and a save by Andre Onana on an attempt by Vitesse player Adnane Tighadouini. Not much else happened in the beginning phase.
The Arnhem contingent got worked up after Davy Klaassen’s opening goal. All of the fuss leading up to the 0-1 goal was misplaced, as Milot Rashica had tripped on his own legs and simply shot into the grass. Vitesse coach Henk Frase and his fellow Vitesse players believed this to be a foul by Hakim Ziyech. Kevin Blom made the right evaluation of the winger’s move and let the game continue. This led to a squeaky-clean execution of an Ajax counter.
After a precise and beautiful volley pass from Klaassen to Viergever, the ball landed, via Younes, once again at the captain’s feet. Klaassen sent a controlled shot into the goal: 0-1. Klaassen thus scored his eleventh competition goal of the season; Klaassen has scored no fewer than nine opening goals. Moreoever, it was the self-taught midfielder’s fiftieth Ajax goal, in all competitions.
Ajax went on the hunt for a second goal. A free kick by Lasse Schöne disappeared wide of Eloy Room’s goal. After that, a shot by left back Viergever landed right on the crossbar. In the final minutes of the first half, centre forward Kasper Dolberg didn’t manage to put the ball past Vitesse’s goalie, either. On the opposite side, Matt Miazga, after a free kick by Lewis Baker, sent the ball sloppily over Onana’s goal. That was the Arnhem team’s greatest chance of the first half of evening up the game.
After the break, Vitesse came close to scoring again. Ricky van Wolfswinkel saw his header stopped by Davy Klaassen. The Ajax captain thus showed both his offensive and defensive chops, and his great value to the title-contending team.
Ajax was kept on its toes by the Arnhem team’s increasing pressure. The Amsterdam team struggled more and more in the second half. Vitesse, mainly through centre forward Van Wolfswinkel, had several scoring opportunities. To the relief of about 1000 Ajacieds who were in the visitors’ stands, the striker wasn’t played to sufficiently, or sufficiently well, or Van Wolfswinkel simply failed to reach the passes that were being sent his way. Ajax escaped another flying shot by Nathan, which disappeared wide of the goal.
Klassen had the chance to add a second goal to his strong performance. Ajax had a penalty in the 76th minute for a slight foul by Foor on substitute Justin Kluivert. Klaassen went after the ball, but saw that Room barely needed to exert himself in order to make a save on the weak shot. Vitesse – Ajax thus remained exciting until the end, and it was also the duel in which Ajax missed its fourth penalty shot of the Eredivisie season. The Amsterdam team has scored four time from twelve yards out.
Klaassen had yet another chance soon after that, but this time, his header on a corner ball went over. With substitutes Donny van de Beek (for Ziyech), Mateo Cassierra (for Dolberg) and Kluivert (for former Vitesse player Bertrand Traoré, Ajax secured the win, but it was a struggle.
With these three points, the Amsterdam team remains hot on the trail of leader Feyenoord, who will face ADO Den Haag later in the afternoon. One week prior to the top match between Feyenoord and PSV, this is a very welcome result.