Ajax started tentatively against Roda JC at home. But, thanks in part to the strength of a new dream pair, the Amsterdammers made easy work of their opponent. Ajax Player of the match – and the scorer of a unique goal – Mounir El Hamdaoui, was Martin Jol’s team’s man of the hour, scoring two goals. Several other Ajax players were also exceptional.
The return match against Dinamo Kiev was already casting its shadow on Saturday’s game. The important play-off match must deliver qualification for the Champions League. The team’s brief against Roda JC – besides, simply, winning – was to avoid injury. Ajax thus began their second home Eredivisie game of the season in a tentative fashion. For the first half hour, the home team made a forgettable impression against Roda JC, who was heavily leaning on defence. Siem de Jong had the only real chance during the first thirty minutes. Picking the ball impressively from the air on Vurnon Anita’s pass (the left back, suspended on Wednesday, handed the ball on a silver platter to De Jong behind Roda’s defence), the midfielder sent the ball over from close by.
Compared to the last match at Dinamo Kiev, Toby Alderweireld was back in the starting team, relegating Oleguer to the bench. Luis Suarez was honoured for his hundredth Ajax goal shortly before kick-off. The Uruguayan received a unique pair of adidas sneakers, with a special commemorative inscription. After this, two Suarezes headed onto the field’s centre point, Papa Suarez holding his new born daughter Delfina. Before kick-off, the Ajax captain handed his small bundle to his injured team mate, and friend, Nicolas Lodeiro, who was waiting in the wings. Suarez returned to the Ajax squad against Roda JC after serving a suspension.
The team from Limburg played a mostly defensive game, but they still had three dangerous opportunities in rapid succession before the break. First, Willem Janssen was intercepted by Maarten Stekelenburg. Two minutes later, the keeper made it to the ball a split second sooner than former Ajax player Laurent Delorge. In the same minute, ‘Steek’ deflected a good Ruud Vormer volley over the goal. Ajax kept their cool during this hectic phase. “We gave away the momentum”, said Martin Jol in retrospect during the press conference. “During the second half, we played better as a team, and didn’t give Roda much space. We were also better on defence.”
The Luis Suarez – Mounir El Hamdaoui ‘dream team’ made their first mark in the 34th minute. Playing together at home for the first time, Suarez made the pass from the right. The ball then bounced off Eric Addo and Sebastian Svärd. El Hamdaoui was there to shoot it in: 1-0. Ajax was in the lead, despite a mediocre start. The two strikers seemed to get more in tune with each other as the match wore on. After a solid one – two with El Hamdaoui, the Uruguayan could have had the 2-0 goal at his feet, but he sent the adidas ball wide. Before the break, Anita was also outstanding. The defender did good work by blocking Morten Skoubo’s attempt close to the Ajax goal.
Shortly after the break, Suarez’s attempt once again just wasn’t good enough. His long distance shot sailed wide of Tyton’s goal. But in the same minute, the captain and proud father made good. The combination with El Hamdaoui brought Suarez diagonally in front of the Roda goal. Suarez’s shot went in: 2-0. The team from Kerkraden’s resistance seemed broken. Nevertheless, Harm van Veldhoven’s team continued to play cautiously and defensively.
After El Hamdaoui brought Ajax to 3-0 (scoring the 50.000th Eredivisie goal since 1956), the team from Amsterdam was satisfied. They shifted into a lower gear, and Eyong Enoh (replaced by André Ooijer, making his debut), Urby Emanuelson (Christian Eriksen) and El Hamdaoui (Miralem Sulejmani) made their way early to the sidelines. Any resource that could be spared against Roda JC, logically was. Suarez took a razor sharp free kick and came very close to scoring Ajax’s fourth goal, but Tyton boxed the shot away. The Ajax player also sent the ball onto the post from a far distance. Last season, Ajax scored four goals in the ArenA against this team from Limburg, with Suarez taking credit for all of the goals. But the counter remained at 3-0 on Saturday. This was Ajax’s first game of the season where they had no goals against. More importantly, the club enjoyed first place in the rankings, for at least one day. On the eve of an all-important Champions League qualifying duel, this is a satisfying result. “We’ve played many matches in few days”, said Jol, satisfied. “We are still fit. Despite our problems during our preparation phase, things are looking up.”
Keep an eye on Ajax TV for a summary of Ajax – Roda JC, and the reactions afterwards.