Heerenveen – Ajax is always a great show, and the teams proved that again on Friday night. After a spectacular festival of errors which remained exciting until the last minute, no winner emerged, with a final score of 3-3. Ajax had taken a 0-2 lead, but the champion was already down by halftime, 3-2.
Frank de Boer made two changes to his line-up after the 2-1 win against Feyenoord five days ago. Ricardo van Rhijn returned into the team after his suspension – “because I’m not going to switch out players because we happened to win one time when he wasn’t there”- said the coach a few days before the game. The other change was at the other back position: Daley Blind relinquished his spot to Nicolai Boilesen, who thus had his first starting spot since September 18, 2011. The Danish international has been afflicted with long lasting injuries which have kept him away from Ajax 1. After playing in the first minutes of the Johan Cruijff Plate, his aim in Heerenveen was to show that he’s totally back. Blind, who was the 150th player to join the club of 100 last week, was suffering from a slight groin injury. “And we don’t want to run any risks, because the time will come soon enough when we really need everyone”, De Boer explained his choice.
The Ajax coach was expecting an open match. The statistics told the same story, since in the last eight matches between sc Heerenveen and Ajax in Friesland, a total of 35 goals have been scored, an average of 4,38 goals per match. The fact that that average had already been passed at halftime was new, and so was the score build-up. Ajax seemed poised to enjoy an easy evening as they enjoyed a 0-2 lead early on. In the thirteenth minute, Niklas Moisander – on a corner from Christian Eriksen – sent a header into the goal, and four minutes later, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson did the same.
But Heerenveen was able to score in the 23rd minute. After a few fouls which weren’t called, both teams thought that Vink had indeed blown his whistle. Heerenveen reacted alertly when it appeared that this wasn’t the case. Alfred Finnbogason was launched and was able to bring the score to 1-2. Nine minutes later, Ajax made a mistake around the middle line and the Eredivisie’s top scorer was once again given a wide berth, after which he promptly scored his sixth goal of the season. At the break, things got even worse for Ajax’s fumbling defense. This time, it was Magnus Eikrem who brought the score to 3-2 after mistakes from Ajax’s defense. “For a coach, it’s incomprehensible that we gave it away like that”, he sighed. “If you have someone on his knees, then you shouldn’t help him back up. You get to 0-2 and then you simply give away two goals. You know what happens then. They start to believe.”
The coach took action during the break. Thulani Serero, who was a main player last season with two goals and a red card, replaced Lasse Schöne. “I didn’t think he was playing very well”, said De Boer, explaining his substitution. “There were definitely other Ajax players who weren’t playing well, but I can only make three substitutions, right?” Ajax had the initiative and the dominance in the second half, but needed to remain alert for an attack from the home team. The biggest opportunities did belong to the Amsterdam team, and Eriksen’s attempt from a free kick in the 59th minute almost hit the mark. The Danish midfielder was successful six minutes later. The attack started with Moisander, who made a good pass to Bojan. The loaned out player from Barcelona saw Eriksen next to him and the Dane shot precisely into the far corner, 3-3.
Ajax went hunting for more. Heerenveen wanted to retain at least one point, and thus the Fries team’s inconstancies became fewer. When they did scatter, Ajax had the upper hand and sought out a fourth goal. But it was anyone’s guess which team would score the fourth goal, and Heerenveen had the best opportunities. One time, Vermeer prevented the attack; the next, Sven Kums sent his shot just over the empty goal. Van Basten: “4-3 would have been welcome, but maybe too much to ask.” When Ajax was preparing for its final attack, Vink blew his whistle to signal the end of the match. Thus Ajax suffered damage in its second away match of the season. After losing 3-2 at AZ, the score in Heerenveen remained 3-3.