Ajax posted a fine performance in their Europa League match on Thursday night. Their return match against Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia ended with a straightforward 2-0 win for Ajax. In the emply Maksimir Stadium, Ajax was too strong for the Croatian team, just as they had been two weeks ago.
Ajax remained undefeated in Zagreb for their seventeenth consecutive official match. Their last defeat was against PSV (4-3) on August 16th. In Croatia’s capital, Ajax continued in the same vein. In addition, the team from Amsterdam is now well positioned to reach the next stage of the tournament. Anderlecht, who share the top position with Ajax, were flawless against Timisoara (3-1).
In a remarkable setting, the fourth group match in pool A of the Europa League was played. Due to supporters fights during the European match against Timisoara, Dinamo Zagreb must play their remaining two home matches to an empty stadium. The Croatians also were fined three points.
The atmosphere in the empty Maksimir Stadium was that of a football practice. At the start, music was played to create excitement, but for whom? Only the small contingency of Ajax supporters, who were allowed to watch the match as vips, heard the sweeping music. The 160 Dutch fans who had bought their tickets before the ban was known were upgraded to vip status, and watched the duel from the skyboxes in the main stand.
After 13 minutes, the Ajax vips cheered enthusiastically. Urby Emanuelson’s free kick was shot into the goal by Marko Pantelic, who made the left footed shot from close range: 0-1. The early goal put Ajax in a comfortable position. The home team, without their fanatic supporters, couldn’t make much happen in their home stadium. Mostly, they missed their star player Mandzukic (ankle injury) and the suspended Badelj. Sivonjic gave Stekelenburg his only work in the first half, challenging him with two straightforward shots.
Due to the trial with exra referees carried out by UEFA this season in the Europa League, English referee Mike Dean was supported by five assistants in the cold, dry stadium. The officials next to each goal were dressed like keepers – wearing gloves, long pants and hats, they were spitting images of goalies.
After half an hour, De Jong, who replaced Gabri, took a good shot. Via Emanuelson’s corner, he ticked the ball over the goal. In the 35th minute, Dinamo’s job got harder than it already was. Cufré gave Ajax captain Suarez an elbow in front of the referee, after which the home team had to make do with ten men on field.
In the first half’s extra time, Ajax’s position became more secure. Demy de Zeeuw’s header – on a pass from Suarez – went into the goal, giving Ajax a comfortable 0-2 lead as they made their way to the locker room.
After half time, Ajax had a relatively straightforward match. Keeping their upcoming competition match this Sunday against League leaders Fc Twente in mind, Ajax didn’t waste any energy. Suarez, Emanuelson (free kick), De Jong and Donald all came close to scoring, but their efforts didn’t convert.
Dinamo ended the duel with nine men, after Calello received his second yellow card in the 73rd minute. This gave Ajax a comfortable ending to the match. Jol used all three of his substitutions, and Ajax took home three points, heading back to Amsterdam that same night.