All of the ingredients for a great football afternoon were in place. Feyenoord’s loss the previous day, Davy Klaassen’s farewell, planned for halftime, and a great headliner against Vitesse. But it all went pear-shaped. Ajax losts 1-2, which marked the farewell celebration of the team’s former captain, and finally, the disastrous afternoon was complete when Matthijs de Ligt and Justin Kluivert both received injuries and were forced to quit early. In short, the sixth round of play is one that would be best forgotten quickly.
It was Vitesse’s second visit in five days to the capital city. The Arnhem team was out to avenge itself after losing its cup game at Swift (eliminated after penalty kicks). Ajax had been successful in its game against amateurs. The game against Scheveningen (1-5) had been all about Kasper Dolberg, who scored three goals and filled up on confidence by doing so.
Question: who’s the striker?
For this reason, the big question was who would be filling the role of centre forward. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who had gotten the nod last week against ADO Den Haag (1-1) or Dolberg? The decision fell to the former, although his competitor wasn’t idle for long. Dolberg was called out of the dugout to warm up early in the game by Marcel Keizer, and he shed his warm-up suit after roughly thirty minutes. Ajax was in deep trouble.
Dolberg was ready on the sidelines when Matthijs de Ligt collided mid-air with Tim Matavz and landed on the ground, injured, and was forced to exit. With Dolberg back in the team, Ajax played with four strikers again.
The change made little impact, and Ajax’s play continued to be led-footed. This is when the Ajacieds went 0-1 down. Guram Kashia scored with a header in the 21st minute. It was a goal that seemed to come out of thin air. Until that moment, almost nothing noteworthy had happened.
In the final minutes of the first half, Ajax applied pressure on the Vitesse goal. Shots by Justin Kluivert and Donny van de Beek didn’t bear fruit, and neither did a header by Huntelaar.
The the first half’s extra time, Ajax faced another downer. After Ziyech had lost possession, Vitesse transitioned rapidly and Milos Rashica was able to pull the trigger (0-2). The Ajacieds came close to scoring once after that, the Frenkie de Jong’s shot went just over the goal.
In the second half, Ajax had to perform, and they knew it. It wasn’t until Mitchell Dijks had neutralized Vitesse’s big chance to score the 0-3 goal that this happened. At the moment when Matavz was about to pull the trigger, Dijks came in between. To his pleasure, the ball lobbed wide of the Ajax goal.
After that, Ajax was able to put Vitesse in a precarious position for the first time. Dolberg had a big opportunity after receiving Ziyech’s pass, but his shot ended up on keeper Remko Pasveer’s fists. The goalie made another save later on an attempt by Ziyech himself, but the shot flew just centimeters wide of his target.
Closing attack in the hunt for one point
The desired goal didn’t come and the clock kept ticking, unfortunately for Ajax. Several more opportunities to turn the tide followed, but they couldn’t do it. Huntelaar hit the post and, after a scrimmage, Amin Younes saw the ball fall on the wrong side of the goal.
Seven minutes before the end, the 1-2 goal, with some good fortune, was scored. Nick Viergever ticked the ball into the goal and gave the Amsterdam fans hope. The closing attack that followed was unconvincing and Vitesse left the field as the games winner.
Keizer was succinct in his post-game comments. “Today was a very bad day for us, a complete off-day. We just couldn’t do a thing.”
See also: In pictures | Ajax Vitesse (1-2)