The rankings weren’t a good indicator of how the 59th edition of PSV – Ajax would end. In its 1000th Eredivisie away match, second-placed Ajax showed a fresh eagerness and insatiable desire to win. Goals by Ricardo Kishna, Lasse Schöne and Anwar El Ghazi helped give Ajax a moral boost: 1-3.
Relative rankings notwithstanding, duels between Ajax and PSV have been entertaining, without fail, for years. That was still the case even though number 2 Ajax was trailing the leader by 14 points. And it was true in the Philips Stadium on Sunday, where Ajax reached the milestone of its thousandth away game in the Eredivisie (including play-off matches). The competition match seemed to have been decided even before this 25th round of play. Eternal prestige and athletic honor coloured this 59th edition of PSV – Ajax.
Three days after its 0-3 win against Legia Warsaw in the UEFA Europa League, Ajax started off tentatively in this traditional match in the ‘lichtstad’. PSV’s offensive tactics from kick-off resulted in a handful of opportunities. Jasper Cillessen saved the team from going down by saving attempts from Memphis Depay (shots) and Georginio Wijnaldum (header). PSV seemed to have gotten over their European disqualification at the hands of Zenit St. Petersburg.
When the Eindhoven storm had died down somewhat, Ajax was ready. After half an hour, right winger Anwar El Ghazi showed PSV players Jetro Willems and Wijnaldum his heels. His pass to Ricardo Kishna, who had cleverly snuck in in front of Santiago Arias, was golden: 0-1. Kishna thus scored his first away goal as an Ajacied.
The fact that the lead didn’t at all reflect the relative strength of each team on the field wasn’t a problem for the Ajax fans in the full visitors’ stands. Milik was in a position to help his team to a second goal shortly before the break. The Pole, who had scored twice on Thursday evening, was stopped by PSV goalie Zoet.
De Boer elected to keep his squad intact for this top competition match. The Ajax coach selected the exact same line-up as on Thursday’s match in Warsaw. Davy Klaassen, who had been a question mark, was able to play. The average age of both teams was, at 23 years and 11 days, very young. And only once earlier this season, at the Eredivisie Ajax – PSV match, has the average age been younger still: 22 years and 356 days.
The young guns from Ajax and PSV provided quite a mature and exciting show in Eindhoven. The Eindhoven team tried to regain control of the match after the break. This resulted in a high-flying header from Wijnaldum. De Boer saw his first centre forward Milik forced to retire with a hamstring injury five minutes later. Ajax’s top scorer thus didn’t manage to see the game through to the end. Lasse Schöne was his substitute. The Dane played slightly more from the right side; El Ghazi continued the game as centre forward. A bit later, Kishna was relieved by Lucas Andersen. In the final minutes, Jairo Riedewald earned some playing time as Thulani Serero’s replacement.
The first fifteen minutes had its share of venom. Substitute Schöne tested the crossbar with his long distance shot. PSV escaped a knock-out. One minute later, the ball was behind Cillessen. PSV centre forward Luuk de Jong scored flawlessly: 1-1. Depay was in a position to help the home team to a bigger lead, but his pivoting shot went just wide.
It was Schöne and El Ghazi who helped Ajax bring home the prize. In the 83rd minute, Schöne tested his luck again on a free kick shooting distance from Zoet. Shortly after hitting the crossbar on another free kick, attempt number 2 was converted into a goal. The free kick was sufficiently redirected by the Eindhoven wall to send PSV goalie the wrong way: 1-2. After that, Ajax had another narrow escape when Bazoer rescued a PSV attempt from the line with a header.
In extra time, El Ghazi dealt the final blow the the Brabant team. It was enough for a encouraging win. Ajax thus became the first team this season to defeat PSV at home. At eleven points, the deficit against PSV is still huge. In the race for second place, the lead on AZ is now six points.