Ajax posted a fortunate win against Go Ahead Eagles on Sunday. A clumsy mistake by keeper Mickey van der Hart resulted in a 1-2 win against the Deventer team shortly before the end. The loaned out Ajax player misjudged a ball played back by Wesley Verhoek, whereby Ajax won the match by the skin of its teeth. With that, Ajax put an end to its skid of three games without a win.
After a scoreless tie against Feyenoord and defeats to Vitesse (1-0) and AZ (0-1), Ajax desperately sought both points and a win in Deventer. Since its 2-0 win against FC Groningen on January 16, Ajax has been on a 270 minute long dry spell. And, if you don’t count Johan Kappelhof’s own goal (the 2-0 goal against Groningen), then the total goes up to 345 scoreless minutes since Ricardo Kishna scored the opening goal against Groningen. High time, then, to turn the tide on a series of negative club records under Frank de Boer’s leadership.
Go Ahead proved to be a tough opponent, one that wasn’t going to simply roll over. Because although Go Ahead’s last victory against Ajax at home dates back to February 1978, and the last tie took place in 1986-1987, the game was exciting until the end. The club from Deventer even came close to making a historic afternoon of it. Sjoerd Overgoor seemed poised to pull an upset fifteen minutes before the end - until Go Ahead keeper Mickey van der Hart missed a ball played back by Wesley Verhoek. The player, loaned out by Ajax, tripped over the ball that had changed direction. Thus Ajax pulled the win out of the bag at the last minute.
Davy Klaassen returned to the squad for the Go Ahead Eagles game. The international had been forced to miss the duel against AZ due to abdominal complaints. Together with Riechedly Bazoer and newly acquired Daley Sinkgraven, he formed Ajax’s midfield. Nick Viergever replaced the suspended Niklas Moisander in Deventer. He and Mike van der Hoorn formed the central defensive duo. The recovered Joël Veltman started on the bench. The experiment with Lasse Schöne as centre forward was repeated.
Anwar El Ghazi broke the stalemate in the 24th minute in the Adelaarshorst. After an attack by Schöne and Kishna, El Ghazi shot to ball into the goal from nearby: 0-1. The forward thus put an end to Ajax’s scoreless 294 minutes of play. It remained the only goal before halftime. This came to Frank de Boer’s disappointment, as he had seen a fresh and hungry team before the break. “It’s just a shame that we didn’t take more distance after the 0-1 goal.” Jeffrey Rijsdijk was threatening on behalf of the home team twice, while from Ajax’s side – except for the opening goal and a shot from Bazoer – no real opportunities came in front of Van der Hart’s goal.
Ajax became sloppier in the second half. “That’s when Go Ahead got the idea that they had a chance. We didn’t have the hold that we had had in the first half”, analyzed De Boer. “We didn’t give many opportunities away, but there was more threatening action in front of our goal than in the first half.” This ensured that Go Ahead players Rijsdijk, Glynor Plet and substitute Jules Reimerink alternatively had the Eagles fans clapping. But they hadn’t yet managed to score.
The fact that Ajax didn’t manage to score again increasingly gave hope that the home team would win one point, or perhaps even more. The hope grew when Go Ahead pulled the trigger fifteen minutes before time. With a hard shot from 25 meters out, Overgoor sent the 1-1 goal past Cillessen. One point seemed to be in the cards until Van der Hart unwittingly provided a dramatic turn of events.
De Boer: “We didn’t have just a little bit of luck with that goal, we had a lot. For us, that goal was great, but it’s awful for a keeper. You wouldn’t wish that kind of goal on your worst enemy.” The Ajax fans who had made the trip could barely believe their eyes, but cheered the winning goal with enthusiasm nonetheless. After squandering eight points in their last three matches, Ajax finally won full points in an Eredivisie match. “I thought that we were mentally strong today. I saw a team that fought for each other. We took a few steps in the right direction”, said De Boer.