Ajax had a nervous start in the home match against NAC Breda, but, with the help of their supporters, pulled out a solid win: 2-0. Ryan Babel scored the decisive second goal. The title race remains very close. All eyes are now on AZ and PSV.
The main rivals in the nerve-wreckingly close title race come into action on Saturday (PSV - FC Twente) and Sunday (AZ - Vitesse). Ajax did what it had to do in front of their 49,737 home fans on Friday: win.
Kenneth Perez, who replaced the suspended Wesley Sneijder, struck after 18 minutes from the penalty spot when Van Gessel had made a hand ball in the box.
After a little over an hour, captain Perez also laid the foundation for the 2-0. In phase in which Ajax put the opponent under pressure but had to be cautious of a counter attack, the Dane touched the ball to Ryan Babel. The forward shot it past goalkeeper Edwin Zoetebier. The 2-0 by Babel brought relief in the Amsterdam ranks. Ajax were sure of three valuable points. Two matches before the end of the regular season, the club cannot afford anymore mistakes.
,,After Babel's goal we were sure of the victory’’, coach Henk ten Cate said happily. ,,We were in control for the remainder of the match and did not give NAC any more chances. I have to compliment Thomas Vermaelen and Edgar Davids for that. They played a fantastic last half hour and kept the team going.’’ Uby Emanuelson was also on great form. The left back made regular rushes toward the NAC goal and released some dangerous shots. But, like most of his teammates on the night, he lacked some luck in finishing.
Ten Cate not only praised his players, he also pointed to the role the nearly 50,000 fans had played in the win. Ajax had their most difficult moments right after halftime, but the supporters stood behind their team. Ten Cate. ,,The supporters gave us a boost. I want to thank them for that. Their support is even more important because we have a young team that does not know how to handle tension that well yet.’’’
Ten Cate and his players go into the weekend knowing that the pressure is now on their competitors. Ajax lead the league table for at least a day and it is now up to the teams in Eindhoven and Alkmaar to try and change that.
,,I'm going to a gala of my old club Go Ahead Eagles on Saturday’’, Ten Cate answered on the question whether he is going to closely monitor the match PSV - FC Twente. The coach also has plans for Sunday afternoon. ,,I am going to take a boat ride on the Amstel. Without a radio.’’ Adding with a big smile: ,,I think I'll be kept updated anyhow.’’