Ajax posted a 4-1 win against VVV Venlo on Thursday evening. David Neres stood out with 2 goals and 1 assist. Thanks to his contribution, and goals by Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Hakim Ziyech, the gap against AZ is now 5 points. A nice highlight to the evening was Jurgen Ekkelenkam making his Ajax 1 debut right before time.
The warm spring evening in the ArenA was even better for Noussair Mazraoui. After being a substitute for 5 games, the 20 year-old midfielder started off on the squad for the first time. He was part of the 3-4-3 line-up that Erik ten Hag’s team approached the game with.
Schöne ignores unwritten rule
After 7 minutes, Ajax had the opportunity to make a flying start. Lasse Schöne’s sleeve was tugged in the penalty kick area, he went down, and was awarded a penalty kick. The unwritten football rule that the victim shouldn’t be the one to take the shot, turned out to have some merit. The Dane shot the ball into Lars Unnerstall’s hands.
Veltman taken away on a stretcher
The spectacular start fizzled out. Ajax became sloppy and, shortly before halftime, Joël Veltman was on the receiving end of a hard hit by Ralf Seuntjes, and he remained down. It was bad news, and he was taken off the field on a stretcher. Rasmus Kristensen came in for him.
Ajax’s misfortune didn’t end there, as VVV took a 0-1 lead out of the blue soon after. It was Suntjens who, this time, did something positive for his team. The striker make use of a sea or space and made good.
Neres goes from supporting to lead
Ajax down? David Neres figured it was time to change that. The Brazilian wing forward went from playing a supporting role to a leading one in the 45th minute. After a good fake-out and pass from Donny van de Beek, he shot the 1-1 into an open goal. Let’s keep going, because one minute later, it was 2-1.
A Neres step was well understood by Kristensen, who got the ball, via the outside of his foot and the head of a VVV player, to the Brazilian again. Don’t think, shoot! The ball flew at lighting speed through VVV keeper Unnerstall’s legs: 2-1.
The break worked its magic on the Ajax players. The pace picked up, passes arrived at their destination, and, within 10 minutes, 3 hugs opportunities had been created. Klaas Jan Huntelaar (wide), Max Wöber (crossbar) and Justin Kluivert (saved by the keeper) kept the visitors alive nonetheless.
But Neres was the guardian angel. With 2 goals in his pocket, he shifted his focus to assists. With a short pass, he gave Huntelaar an unmissable opportunity in front of a half open goal. The experienced striker didn’t falter and brought Ajax into a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Final act by Ziyech
The final act was, not surprisingly, for Hakim Ziyech. The defender showed his class several times and crowned an outstanding game with the 4-1 goal. ‘Ziyech, Ziyech, Ziyech’ resounded in the ArenA after his beautiful shot grazed the inside of the post and went in.
The crowd remained on its feet, because shortly after, it was time for Jurgen Ekkelenkamp’s (18) debut. The young gun had 5 minutes to get acquainted with playing on the biggest stage.
After a very reticent first half, there were happy faces all around after the game. Ajax was 1 debut-maker, 1 squad debut maker, 4 goals and 3 points richer. The gap against AZ is now only 5 points and the focus can now fully be on the games against the Alkmaar team and Excelsior, with the qualifying round of the Champions League at stake.