It was a close call for Ajax, but the side won the last home match of 2004 by the narrowest of margins: 1-0. Vitesse hung on until the 88the minute, when Ryan Babel gave the victory to the team that deserved it the most.
The lone goal in the match made sure that the target that was set some weeks ago - winning everything at least until the winter break - is still within reach. The victory against Vitesse was Ajax's fourth win in a row and next week the team have to win at FC Groningen in the last match before the break.
,,After the break we depend on lesser periods that the teams have that are above us in the league table. And I think that those lesser periods will come'', said Ronald Koeman, who was of course happy with the 3-3 result of the match between Feyenoord and PSV earlier in the day. ,,It is normal that every team hits a slump. For instance, I don't think that AZ will keep on getting the goals as they did against Twente (Touzani made two own goals and was guilty of allowing a third, ed.). We are out of that slump, I think.''
But the match against Vitesse could have ended the way it begun: in 0-0. ,,It was a difficult match for us", Koeman said. ,,Vitesse played well and aggressively and too often we attacked through the middle, instead of using the wings. And with Vitesse in possesion, we backed off.''
Ajax needed too many chances to break the spell. The home side were also lucky that Purrel Fränkel hit the cross bar when he suddenly fired in the tenth minute. Ajax played carelessly, but did manage some quality combinations.
Rafael van der Vaart touched it nicely to his pal Wesley Sneijder in the 23rd minute, but the young midfielder fired it high over the cross bar. Sneijder came close to scoring again right before halftime, from a cross by Mauro Rosales, but his header lacked the proper direction.
Not much changed in the second half. Ajax had the majority of ball possession but took too long to find an opening in Vitesse's defence. After Koeman had brought on Daniël de Ridder for the unlucky Nicolae Mitea and Yannis Anastasiou for Wesley Sneijder, it all went a bit better. ,,It was still 0-0 and we had to do something. That is why we played with four forwards, with the risk that comes with such a strategy. But we went for it and we were rewarded. We sought a bit of luck and we found it. I had faith in a good result'', the winning coach said.
Substitute Yannis Anastasiou found Maxwell on the left in the 88th minute. The Brazilian crossed to Rafael van der Vaart who headed it in. His attempt was saved by goalkeeper Jevric but Ryan Babel found himself in exactly the right spot to put in the rebound: 1-0. Van der Vaart had to be taken off in the final minute and he was replaced with Anthony Obodai. In stoppage time, Vitesse was dangerous once more from a corner kick but goalkeeper Hans Vonk was determined to keep a clean sheet and succeeded in that mission.