It was mainly the red card for John Heitinga that was discussed after Heracles - Ajax. With a 0-3 away win in Almelo, goals by Kenneth Perez (2) and Wesley Sneijder, Ajax suffered no further damage in the Polman Stadium.
Ajax stay on championship course the week before the match against PSV. With a margin of two points, Ajax can take a big step in the Amsterdam ArenA next Sunday if they manage to defeat the number two in the league.
But hardly anyone was thinking about the match against PSV this Sunday. The only reference to that match was keeping Jaap Stam out of the lineup, as a next yellow card would earn him an automatic one-match ban. Thomas Vermaelen replaced the veteran against Heracles Almelo, the opponent that gave Ajax some trouble on their artificial pitch. Until this match, the home side had been undefeated in Almelo.
Heracles started well and could have scored when Stefaan Tanghe and Diego Biseswar just came up short when Björn Daelemans crossed. Kenneth Perez, captain in Stam's absence, showed his team the way late in the first half. After a good interception by Gabri, Wesley Sneijder sent the Dane deep and Perez shook off two opponents to score the 0-1.
,,Maybe it wasn't our best match, but in the end I think we can be pleased'', said Henk ten Cate. ,,The circumstances were a bit of an excuse, I think. We had to get used to playing on artificial turf. Heracles play on this weekly. I cannot be unhappy. We won a difficult match by 0-3. What more do you want?"
The home side did not give up after the first goal. A red card for Heitinga only further ignited Heracles' spirit. The Ajax defender was sent off after he had fouled Biseswar. Too hard a punishment, Heitinga himself thought. ,,I did not expect a red card. It's too much, but what can you do. The referee is also human and humans make mistakes. I hope to play against PSV."
Ten Cate agreed with his player. He also thought Heitinga was too heavily punished. Ten Cate: ,,Biseswar is a quick player. John may have been too late with his tackle, but it certainly did not warrant a red card. Much like the players, coaches and referees sometimes have a bad day. But this made no sense."
After the worst Heracles storm had died down, Ajax still took more distance from the home team. Ten minutes from the end, the match was decided from the penalty spot. Emmanuel Boakye had fouled Sneijder in the box and Perez converted the spot kick. Five minutes after the 0-2, Sneijder himself scored. Substitute George Ogararu, on for Tom de Mul, crossed to the midfielder. The difficult task had been completed.