Even before Ajax began their home match against Roda JC, the afternoon had begun well. PSV lost to Feyenoord and if Ajax won, the margin between the two title contenders would be nine points with only nine matches left to play. Ajax won 4-2 and won more than just three points.
Of course, the three points that Ajax gained for the 4-2 victory were more than welcome. But also Rafael van der Vaart's performance, who dished out clever passes, and the return of thoroughbreads Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Steven Pienaar were impressive. The Swede and the South-African came on in the 66th minute and justified the call for them in the short time they were on the pitch. Ibrahimovic was out since the winter break with a groin injury and Pienaar's nerve injury sidelined him for five months. The match also marked the return of Bogdan Lobont, who after a back injury took over as first goalkeeper from Maarten Stekelenburg.
For weeks it was said that Ajax needed the moves and the goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be succesful. But the hastily acquired Yannis Anastasiou showed against his former club that he will not be relegated to the roll of second striker without a fight. The Greek scored twice against Roda JC.
After Nicolae Mitea put Ajax in the lead after 26 minutes, Anastasiou doubled the margin when he received a sublime back-heel pass from Rafael van der Vaart and calmly finished. When Roda JC through Iwan Redan - Anastasiou's successor in Kerkrade - got one back right before halftime, the striker headed in a free kick by Van der Vaart seconds before the end of the half: 3-1. ,,Yannis has done very well", coach Ronald Koeman said. ,,I don't know yet if I am going to start with Ibrahimovic next week or if I'll stick with Anastasiou. Yannis scored twice, at important moments. I did not have to substitute him."
But the Ajax boss did it anyway. It was not his first substitution, because Wesley Sneijder replaced Zdenek Grygera after halftime, to make better use of the space that Roda left on Ajax's right flank.
Immediately after halftime Roda JC scored again, again from a corner kick: 3-2. And the visitors had an excellent chance to equalise when a wide-open Senden headed the ball to the wrong side of the post.
Twenty minutes after the 3-2, Koeman brought on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Steven Pienaar, to the delight of the fans. With Ibrahimovic, the game flowed even more toward the Roda goal. The touches between the Swede and Pienaar were a joy to behold.
With a flair for the dramatic, both returnees then put the match on ice. The cross came from Ibrahimovic and Pienaar slid it in the goal: 4-2. ,,We booked a good victory and three players have returned from serious injuries. That is great. We should be able to keep PSV at this distance'', said Koeman.