Davy Klaassen was outstanding in Ajax’s last home game of 2013. The Hilversum native’s three (spectacular) goals were the foundation under Ajax’s easy 4-0 defeat of NAC Breda. After Bojan Krkic had also scored, this dress rehearsal for the Champions League duel against AC Milan was deemed a resounding success.
On Saturday, Ajax experienced few problems with NAC, a team that, historically, hasn’t given Ajax many headaches. In 47 editions of Ajax – NAC, Ajax has won 38 of them. Nebojsa Gudelj’s team didn’t manage to add a win to their total of three wins that the Noad Advendo Combinatie Breda has earned on Amsterdam soil.
The easy win was very welcome, four days before the important Champions League game against AC Milan. On Wednesday, the game between Rossoneri and Ajax will determine which team will continue in the Champions League in 2014. A win would be enough for Ajax to avoid going into the Europa League. Frank de Boer decided to leave his midfield unchanged against NAC Breda. The middle line has delivered good results in the match against FC Barcelona and ADO Den Haag. Daley Blind was thus midfield controller against NAC. Exactly five years after his Ajax 1 debut (FC Volendam – Ajax, December 7, 2008), ‘little Blind’ found Davy Klaassen and Thulani Serero at his sides at the smoothly-running midfield. The balance and class at the (mostly) Amsterdam midfield appeared to be the key to success once again. Because Lerin Duarte got injured on Thursday, the Ajax coach was forced to find a new left back. Ruben Ligeon was appointed to the task against NAC.
The choice for stability paid off – mainly via Klaassen – before halftime. After a first half hour which was sloppy at times, during which the Amsterdam team forced the first essential opportunities, Klaassen opened the score at 34 minutes. Schöne (who is now a familiar face on right offense) delivered the tailor-made pass after which Klaassen coolly scored. The on-field division of power was finally expressed in black-and-white: 1-0. It was also Klaassen who brought the 50.000 Ajax fans in the ArenA a good feeling before the break. The way in which the self-taught Ajax player struck was just phenomenal. Klaassen took Fischer’s assist onto his boots smoothly. Ten Rouwelaar never stood a chance: 2-0.
The Ajax players were able to play freely after that, as the guests’ fire was muted. Two meagre Breda attacks did give Jasper Cillessen some work. The Ajax player made two saves, while later on, he had luck on his side during an attempt by Stipe Perica. The Croat’s shot hit the post. Ajax thus reached the finish unscathed. Cillessen and his fellow Ajax players kept a clean sheet for five competition matches in a row. The Amsterdam team has even struck fourteen times in a row against NEC, Heracles Almelo, ADO Den Haag en NAC Breda. These are great, noteworthy statistics.
Despite the lack of excitement, there was a lot to enjoy. Once again, Ajax Player of the Game Klaassen played a key role. The blond midfielder plucked a pass from captain Niklas Moisander nicely from the air. Klaassen controlled, and outplayed first Kees Kwakman, then Ten Rouwelaar by shooting into an empty goal. The 3-0 goal was just as beautiful as Klaassen’s second one of the evening. Four minutes later, substitute Bojan Krkic added his goal to the total. On a pass from left back Ricardo van Rhijn, the loaned out Barça player added extra shine to his turn as a substitute (just like he had against ADO) by scoring. NAC ended the game with ten men after Joey Suk’s red card. The substitute unleashed his powerlessness onto Viktor Fischer’s bottom half. With the ten remaining NAC players, the visitors’ powerlessness was palpable.
The great result and playing will give Ajax an extra shot of confidence before the midweek away game against Milan. It was thus a bonus that De Boer, in addition to Bojan, also accorded playing time to Stefano Denswil and Christian Poulsen. In many ways, it was a very successful Saturday evening in the almost sold-out Amsterdam ArenA. “If we are able to keep this good feeling and to continue to play this way, I’m convinced that we’ll be champions at the end of this season”, decided Frank de Boer, looking back on Ajax – NAC.
Keep watching Ajax TV for highlights of Ajax – NAC Breda, and reactions afterwards from Frank de Boer, Davy Klaassen and Joël Veltman.