Ajax did the job in its home game against Heracles Almelo. After two straight losses, the Amsterdam team finally managed to win: 2-1. Arek Milik was the most celebrated man on the team thanks to his two goals.
The theme for this fifteenth edition of Ajax – Heracles was clear beforehand. “It’s not an option for us to lose three times in a row”, Frank de Boer emphasized the mission a few days before Ajax’s fifth Eredivisie match. The two straight losses against PSV and FC Groningen had taken their toll. The interland period was a welcome respite. After two weeks without competition play, it would be interesting to see how Ajax had processed the two setbacks.
Last-placed Heracles seemed to be the ideal opponent at the outset. The Almelo team had suffered four losses in four competition matches, a disastrous start to competition. The ‘zero out of four’ record has even cost coach Jan de Jonge his job as the Almelo team’s coach. Successor John Stegeman – a good acquaintance of Ajax director Marc Overmars – thus made his debut in the ArenA.
Stegeman must certainly have imagined his debut differently. On the other hand, Ajax could not have asked for a better start to Saturday evening’s game than to play the last –place team. Ajax took the lead after only 58 seconds. The way in which the goal occurred was beautiful. After a deep pass from Lasse Schöne, centre forward Arek Milik shook guard Bart Schenkeveld off, after which the Polish player rounded off coolly and powerfully with his left foot: 1-0. This brought the home team into a comfortably position straight away.
And that was a nice position to be in during this first part of the very tough schedule awaiting Ajax in the upcoming weeks. On Wednesday, the national champion starts its UEFA Champions League season. Former Ajax players Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Maxwell and Gregory van der Wiel can be admired once again in the ArenA during the midweek game. The following Sunday, a charged meeting with Feyenoord takes place in de Kuip. Ajax will be playing three games per week for the next few weeks. These are busy, but fantastic football times. But only if good results are achieved.
With an eye on achieving results, De Boer selected Milik in the centre forward position. Kolbeinn Sigthórsson did score for Iceland in last week’s European Cup qualification match; and considering the upcoming busy period, the centre forward followed the match as a substitute at kick-off. Sigthórsson welcomed two brand-new Ajax players. Midfielder Niki Zimling and keeper Diederik Boer were acquired during the last transfer winder and made their debut in the match selection. Veteran Zimling made his official Ajax debut by coming in for Nicolai Boilesen at the one-hour mark.
After the ultra-fast opening goal, Ajax got somewhat stuck and was unable to expand the lead. The second Ajax goal was a long time coming. Ajax certainly had its fair share of opportunities, but finishing off properly was the problem for 44 minutes. For example, Milik’s shot on Davy Klaassen’s pass went over Dennis Telgenkamp’s goal. In the meantime, the visitors saw their first scoring opportunity shot down by Niklas Moisander’s timely play. Afterwards, opportunistic Heracles almost got its lucky break. Mark-Jan Fledderus tested Jasper Cillessen with a long-range shot. The Ajax player made the save. After twenty minutes, Lasse Schöne almost brought the score to 2-0. The Dane’s shot hit the post. Klaassen and Anwar El-Ghazi didn’t manage to pass Telgenkamp with the ball, either.
Shortly before halftime, Milik showed once again how it’s done. After beautiful prep by El Ghazi, whose moves and footwork outplayed three Heracles players, the Ajax centre forward received the ball just outside the box. Milik cut through and once again scored with his left foot. Thus Ajax’s Polish player struck gold in the first and last minutes of the first half. Ajax thus almost evened the score from last season. In 2013-2014, Ajax defeated Heracles 3-0. Later that season, on the artificial turf of Almelo, the 33rd national title was secured. A third Ajax goal wasn’t in the cards this time for the 47.408 supporters in the ArenA. And it almost cost Ajax.
Shortly before Schöne was substituted for Lucas Andersen, who was celebrating his birthday, the multifunctional Dane once again saw his attempt hit the post. Cillessen personally prevented Heracles from closing in. The goalie reacted alertly to Thomas Bruns’ free kick. The midfielder wasn’t allowed to shoot from too far away.
The Amsterdam win was threatened in the closing minutes. The Almelo offense was successfully launched with Wout Weghorst brought the visitors to a 2-1 score by scoring with a header. The brave, combative Almelo team was going for broke and remarkably made enough time and space to get into the game, but fortunately, didn’t score again.