This entertaining winter edition of the Feyenoord – Ajax Klassieker did not produce a winner. Marko Pantelic’s opening goal was evened by Georgino Wijnaldum’s tying one. The score remained 1-1. The result was a fair illustration of the match, although Ajax had rightfully hoped for more.
Ajax were looking to redeem themselves after a narrow midweek Cup match win against NEC (3-2). They managed to reach the Cup semi-final, but Ajax’s play had offered little to get excited about. This away game against Feyenoord was a ripe opportunity to make amends. It certainly was a thrilling Sunday afternoon in Rotterdam, and the level of play made it a better experience than the midweek Cup match in the ArenA. Only the result wasn’t as good.
Eyong Enoh returned to Jol’s selection. Fresh from both a Friday and Saturday training, the Cameroonian was ready for a start in the Klassieker. The Ajax player, who participated with Cameroon in the Africa Cup, formed a solid middle block with Rasmus Lindgren and Demy de Zeeuw. The latter had returned the captain’s band to its rightful owner, Luis Suarez, after the midweek tie against NEC. The Uruguayan was back for the game in the Kuip following a suspension. Urby Emanuelson, like last Wednesday, was on left back. Suk had originally been part of the squad, but in the end, the Korean had to make do with being a spectator in the Kuip. However, his meeting with Guus Hiddink – analyst for the Eredivisie Live, and former coach of South Korea’s national team- most likely made up for it.
After a series of shots in a stadium without Ajax fans, the Ajax squad needed to make some early adjustments. Toby Alderweireld retreated to the sidelines with an injury after fifteen minutes. Oleguer came in for the Belgian, directly into the heart of Ajax’s defence. The Jan Vertonghen/Oleguer partnership proved to be a solid one.
Ten minutes later, Dennis Rommendahl came close to scoring the opening goal. The Danish right winger – today somewhat retreated, playing more at midfield – made a fine pass to De Zeeuw. The reserve captain’s square pass to Marko Pantelic was golden. The Serbian player simply tapped the ball in from close range: 0-1. Earlier, Suarez had come close to scoring. Feyenoord keeper Rob van Dijk had luck on his side, or perhaps simply had good tactical judgement. Wijnaldum had the chance to even the score before the break, but the Feyenoord player’s header went wide. Karim El Ahmadi’s shot also went over. Suarez (hard volley) and Emanuelson (side net and over) also had good opportunities before the break.
“We should have made it 2-0”, said Martin Jol. “But we didn’t. Except for the first ten minutes, when we had to make sure not to get caught up in Feyenoord’s game, we had plenty of opportunities. We should have padded our 0-1 lead.”
From midfield, De Zeeuw sought, and found, the connection with Suarez and Pantelic. The midfielder, with his impressive stride and drive, did good preparation work, but also had his own chances. Thanks to this, he quickly became a target for the Rotterdam fans. De Zeeuw was adept at avoiding the many snow and ice balls which were aimed his way – no small feat, especially when taking corner shots.
After half time, the team from Rotterdam tried to take the initiative, in the hopes of erasing their deficit. This didn’t deliver many opportunities for them. Ajax kept taking chances with their attack, and waiting for openings in front of Van Dijk. After an hour, a communication glitch between Emanuelson and Stekelenburg presented Wijnaldum with an unmissable opportunity. The left back ticked the ball past his own goalie, and Wijnaldum had an open goal for the 1-1.
The tying goal shouldn’t have happened, assessed Jol. “It’s a shame to be scored against like that”, he continued. “At one point, we were in control over feisty Feyenoord. They did get opportunities, but we should have increased our lead. At the same time, Feyenoord is a strong team with a few good players.”
Suarez could have helped his team by finishing a nice move past 17 year old Stefan de Vrij. Jol had purposely let his captain play against the youngest Rotterdammer, but Suarez had his fair share of both successful and less successful plays. This tactical move should have delivered better results.
The tying goal was a boost to Feyenoord’s confidence. Vurnon Anita replaced Rommendahl to help control Feyenoord’s growing threat. At midfield, Emanuelson conceded his place to youngster Christian Eriksen.
Face to face with Stekelenburg, substitute Roy Makaay seemed poised to decide the outcome of the Klassieker. The forward shot the ball onto the Ajax goalkeeper, instead of past him. Across the field, Suarez was keeping Van Dijk busy. The goalie had trouble getting the Uruguayan’s shot on goal under control. El Ahmadi, in a prime position, whiffed a shot. Eriksen, after a promising dribble, had just too little room to take a shot.
The nerve wrecking closing phase didn’t deliver more goals, moreover when De Zeeuw shot high. The Rotterdam edition of the Klassieker remained balanced: 1-1. “It’s always too bad to lose points”, Jol concluded. “It’s never good enough. Especially not in a Klassieker.”
Watch Ajax TV for post match interviews and highlights of the Klassieker.