Ajax qualified for the round of the last sixteen for the Dutch FA Cup on Thursday evening. BV Veendam was beaten 3-0 in the Amsterdam ArenA. The number twelve in the Jupiler League kept the score down to nil for an hour, but after a goal by Mido, their resistance was broken. After 575 minutes without a goal, Suarez also finally managed to score again.
Just as reigning champion FC Twente didn’t have it easy, cup holder Ajax too experienced a tough evening against a top amateur club. For a whole hour Veendam cherished the nil all score, until Mido broke the spell with a header that went home. After the defeats against Auxerre and ADO Den Haag, Ajax failed to make it an easy match for themselves. That was a great shame, particularly with the extremely tough weeks ahead in mind, with battles against Real Madrid, PSV and AC Milan awaiting Ajax up until the new year.
Anita took over the right back position from the injured Van der Wiel. Alderweireld, who, with the exception of the home game against Auxerre, has spent most of his time on the bench lately, was also on the pitch against Veendam from the start of the match. As El Hamdaoui has an injured ankle, Suarez was joined up front by Sulejmani and Eriksen, always geared to the offence.
Opponent Veendam was declared bankrupt earlier this year, but appealed that decision successfully in court. And so the small club from the south east of the province of Groningen (budget 1,7 million) had a real treat in the ArenA on Thursday. Supported by several hundreds of fans who had travelled along, Veendam traded the pale lamplight of the amateurs for the floodlights of the Ajax stadium which held 22,559 spectators.
The visitors from Veendam, with their loyal players such as keeper Van der Vlag and striker Kolder, held their own in the ArenA up until half time. Every now and then the visiting team’s goalkeeper had to step into action, but he certainly wasn’t overworked during the first half. Ajax came closest to 1-0 in the 42nd minute when Suarez saw his free kick hit the bottom of the bar and head away from the goal.
In the second half, Mido substituted for De Zeeuw, and there was little improvement initially. In the first fifteen minutes after half time only Sulejmani had a good opportunity, but the diligent Serb failed at the last hurdle. Shortly thereafter there was a goal. Mido came through as saviour and put Ajax into the lead in the 61st minute. The tall Egyptian headed a crossing pass by Emanuelson, scoring his first goal since his return to Ajax: 1-0.
After the opening goal the holder of the cup finally started to pose more of a threat. At the end of the pitch in front of the crowded Section 410 the game slowly started to become more eventful. A shot by Sulejmani and an overhead kick by Suarez (after a good pass by Mido) should have given Ajax a comfortable lead shortly after 1-0. However, it took right up until the 76th minute for Ajax to decide the game. After receiving from Sulejmani, Suarez’ shot brought the liberating 2-0. Much to Ajax’ relief and that of the team captain himself, Suarez finally came up with a confident shot again, after a dry patch that had lasted for weeks. After five goalless matches in a row the Uruguayan broke the negative cycle. Three minutes before the final whistle Eriksen (assist by Mido) set the final score at 3-0.
After the match Veendam’s manager, Joop Gall, spoke of ‘proud’, ‘to be allowed to play’ and ‘the great Ajax’, whilst Martin Jol was primarily relieved to have won. ,,We didn’t bring enough to the game before half time, partly because we didn’t have anyone receiving up front. By bringing Mido onto the pitch we gained a true striker, enabling Eriksen and Sulejmani to play better as well. We had better positioning on the pitch, making everything just that little bit easier from then on."