No goals for Ten Hag’s return to Utrecht

No goals for Ten Hag’s return to Utrecht

Ajax took away one point from the game at FC Utrecht.  Coach Erik ten Hag’s return to the Galgenwaard didn’t come with any goals.  The tough match ended as it started, 0-0.

In his 2nd performance as Ajax’s head coach, Erik ten Hag once again faced an exciting opponent.  Last week he made his debut by winning the Classic, and his first away game was against the club he used to coach.  Knowing that he had defeated Ajax at home earlier this season, his job was now to do the same with Ajax in Utrecht.  Failing that, PSV’s lead would increase to 8 points.

The priority was clearly not good football.  Play in Galgenwaard stadium was so mediocre that fluid combinations were all but impossible.  With a big helping of passion, both teams strove to win.  The passion was translated into a solid match ridden with fouls.  The biggest one was Lukas Görtler’s, who earned a yellow card for his hard charge on Nico Tagliafico.  As a substitute, he left the field when he earned a 2nd yellow card after a squabble with Kluivert.

No stress for keepers

Ajax seemed poised to open the score in the 12th minute, but Klaas Jan Huntelaar was half a meter offside, and the goal was disqualified.  Ajax didn’t get many more opportunities in the first half (limited to shots by Neres and Ziyech, easily stopped by Jensen).  Andre Onana didn’t need to worry much on the opposite side of the field, either.

However, that changed after the break.  A shot by Labyad hobbled quickly in the direction of the far corner, but the Cameroonian ticked the ball out of his goal.  Ajax had an opportunity soon after by David Neres, but three Utrecht players breathing down his neck defeated him.  In the second half, the play ebbed and flowed between the sides, with neither team dominating clearly.  Onana was forced to step in more often than his opponent, however.

Last-minute opportunities
10 minutes before the end, Ajax had a good opportunity to score the opening goal on a free kick.  Ziyech found Jensen in his way once again.  From the corner, Huntelaar sent a hard header wide of the goal.  A few minutes later, Ajax had a few opportunities after a genuine scrimmage, but Kluivert was unable to hit the goal.

Tension grew as the minutes ticked away.  Ajax – which had ended up with the same players on the field as at kick-off – knew that it couldn’t afford to lost points.  Schöne had an amazing free kick up his sleeve, and Jensen initially let it slip, but he grabbed it just before it crossed the line.  A second yellow card came in extra time for Götler, who had been substituted at that point, but interfered with Kluivert from the bench.

The game remained at 0-0, and the deficit against PSV grew to 7 points.  Next week, Ajax will play at home against NAC.