Fourth straight championship!

Fourth straight championship!

Ajax is the Eredivisie champion for 2013-2014! Sunday’s 1-1 tie was enough to secure the 33rd national title in the club’s history, and a unique fourth straight title. Lasse Schöne helped Ajax in Almelo by scoring the deciding, championship goal.

Beforehand, Ajax only needed one point to win the championship. At the start of the 33rd round of play, Heracles Almelo wasn’t even sure of remaining in the Eredivisie. In order to eliminate the theoretical possibility for post-competition promotion/degradation, the Almelo team only needed one point. After 75 minutes of evenly balanced football, a tie resulted.

Frank de Boer saw Joël Veltman return to his squad after a suspension for the cup final. The defender formed a central duo with Stefano Denswil, who was replacing the injured Niklas Moisander. Under the leadership of captain Daley Blind – operating as central midfielder – Ajax started its quest for the title at 14:30. The mission was full of ups and downs. After the first warning at 55 seconds by Iliass Bel Hassani (wide header), Lasse Schöne opened the score for the visitors. The Dane sent the ball, on a free kick, via the crossbar past a helpless Remko Pasveer. Who else but Schöne could open the score, who was perhaps this season’s most consistent Ajax player? With his multi-functionality and key goals, the veteran was worth his weight in gold very often for Ajax in 2013-2014.

With a 0-1 lead after thirteen minutes, Ajax seemed to be sitting pretty early on. From the visitor’s stands of the sold-out Polman Stadium, a ‘stand up for the champions’ came. The fans’ singing was undoubtedly chanted elsewhere in the stadium by countless Ajax fans. When Schöne scored his opening goal, it was clear how many Ajax fans had found a spot outside of the visitors’ stands. On the field, though, the championship match went on without a hitch.

This wasn’t true of the score buildup. Midway through the first half, Simon Cziommer, on behalf of the home team, showed his outstanding free kick skills. The experienced midfielder sent his heartfelt kick confidently towards the upper corner. With the tie at halftime, things were still fine for Ajax. The Amsterdam team created opportunities for themselves before the break with opportunities for Schöne (blocked shot) and centre forward Kolbeinn Sigthórsson (header over).
After former Ajax player Milano Koenders lost possession, Davy Klaassen served the Dane with his greatest opportunity. At the critical moment – the moment to shoot at close range – Schöne skidded due to the rain-soaked artificial turf in Almelo. Jasper Cillessen made a good save when he saw Mark Uth appear before him. The keeper kept his team safe from a second goal against.

After the break, the reigning national champion seemed to outplay the home team convincingly. Ajax once again narrowly escaped another goal against, when Rosheuvel saw his attempt sail past the goal. In the reply, Klaassen saw his shot end up directly in Pasveer’s hands. Was there some championship pressure on the rankings’ leader?

Substitutes Christian Poulsen (for Denswil) and Bojan (for Lesly de Sa) came in to bring extra strength and stability. The loaned out player from FC Barcelona was almost decisive ten minutes before the end. Bojan saw his low shot disappear wide. With this, the last venom disappeared from the match. Heracles and Ajax had had enough and played the rest of the game safely out. The tie was ‘secured’ through countless wide passes by both teams. Not exactly beautiful to watch, but understandable nonetheless.

Ajax thus celebrated their latest title at 16:17. Fifteen minutes later, Ajax club icon Bennie Mulder handed the championship trophy to the Ajax players, who were clad in the championship jerseys. With this 33rd national title, Ajax wrote brand new history: never before has the club won the national championship four times in a row. Frank de Boer is also the first Eredivisie coach in history to lead a club to the title four straight times. The Ajax man has delivered this record achievement in only 3,5 years’ time. For bench warmer Lerin Duarte, the visit to his former club was extra special; he won his first championship on familiar ground.

The Ajax players on the match form celebrated the championship with their fellow selection mates who had, for various reasons, not been included in this match’s selection. The injured Moisander and Siem de Jong went onto the field and enjoyed champagne in the locker room. ‘You win the championship with the entire selection’, De Boer has often emphasized. The securing of the 33rd championship is, more than ever, a group achievement. This season, Ajax lacked one outstanding player, but the Ajax players simply delivered the best, most consistent results as a group. Ajax is, once again, the best team in the Eredivisie.