Ajax didn’t suffer any damage on Saturday in their quest for the national title. The home game against PSV ended scoreless: 0-0. Ajax – PSV was exciting, but not always good. As a result of the tie, the race for the championship remains interesting.
Ajax – PSV was a match under extreme pressure. It was to be a deciding match for the home team regarding their chances of staying alive in the quest for the championship. Going into the match, leader PSV had a six point lead on their hosts, who are in third place in the Eredivisie.
Martin Jol had to do without the suspended André Ooijer, who was forced to miss the duel against his former club due to his red card from the AZ match. The absence of Ooijer, who visited the Ajax Supportershome with Rik van den Boog before the match, left an open spot for Toby Alderweireld. Compared to the match against AZ, Jol had made three modifications to his line-up: Alderweireld, Demy de Zeeuw and Eyong Enoh all received a starting spot.
The first threat from Ajax came from Siem de Jong after eight minutes. The central midfielder turned away from his opponent Otman Bakkal, but his shot ended up in the hands of Andreas Isaksson. Luis Suarez was also dangerous minutes later. The captain’s volley ended up just over the PSV goal. Unlike his attempts of late, the Uruguyan Ajax player didn’t even hit the post or crossbar. Before the break, both teams seemed to be struggling to keep a fine balance. PSV, understandably, didn’t need to do much in the sold out Amsterdam ArenA. But for Ajax, a win was a must. The team from Eindhoven, who seemed to be relying more heavily on defense, posed a few threats. Ola Toivonen saw his close range header stopped by Maarten Stekelenburg. An attack from Jeremain Lens ended via Jonathan Reis in the hands of the Ajax goalie. Across the field, Vertonghen threatened with his free kick, but Isakson dove into the right corner, making the save.
The ArenA’s visitors stand remained mostly empty. Due to problems with the railway, the fans from Eindhoven weren’t able to travel to Amsterdam by train. A handful of Ajax fans took over a few seats which normally act as a buffer between the two supporters groups.
After the break, PSV defender Marcelo threatened to disrupt the balance. Vurnon Anita was at the goal line to deflect the ball. Toivonen came close to scoring a few minutes later. The Swede’s attempt was blocked by Stekelenburg. Jol had hoped that Miralem Sulejmani would be an additional weapon in his team’s arsenal. The Serb replaced Anita and took over Urby Emanuelson’s position, with the latter serving as left back for the rest of the match. The left defender played his 250th official match with Ajax. Vertonghen reached a milestone as well; after Ajax – PSV, the Belgian had played his 150th match in an Ajax jersey.
One of Sulejmani’s first attempts was a diagonal shot, which Isaksson once again stopped. Erik Pieters grabbed the sprinting Sulejmani in the collar after an hour of play, but this went unpunished by referee Björn Kuipers. He could have just as easily have reprimanded the PSV player’s action with a penalty.
Ten minutes before the end, Suarez could have brought his team to their desired outcome with a powerful play. The Ajax player made a beautiful play from his own half, with his shot almost going in behind Isaksson. The Swedish keeper barely managed to tick the ball over the crossbar.
The fine balanced was maintained. The pressure kept the necessary goals at bay. But the home team didn’t come out of the match unscathed. Substitute Lindgren was punished with a red card after his charge on Bakkal during the closing minutes at the middle line. Because FC Twente lost to AZ on Saturday (1-2), Ajax was able to limit the damage in the competition. As they didn’t gain any ground, and ended the evening with ten men on the field, the match ended on a bitter note. On Tuesday, Ajax meets Real Madrid in the Champions League.
“We could have pulled the trigger in the first twenty minutes”, said Martin Jol in retrospect during the press conference. “It didn’t happen, and PSV was stronger in the second half. It’s a shame that we didn’t grab those three points, especially knowing FC Twente’s outcome. On the other hand, we didn’t lose any ground to PSV.”