Ajax closed its 30th round of play on Sunday afternoon with a narrow win. Thanks to a goal by David Neres, the true plethora of opportunities didn’t remain scoreless.
On Sunday afternoon, Ajax kicked off knowing that it would be impossible to reduce their gap against PSV. The Eindhoven team had won at AZ on Saturday evening, maintaining their 10 point lead on Ajax. This was a big disappointment in terms of aspirations to the title. The fans felt this way too, as many seats in the stadium remained empty.
At Ajax, there was one change compared to last week in Groningen. Max Wöber took over the suspended Joël Veltman’s spot. The other 10 positions were the same and Matthijs de Ligt had the captain’s band solidly around his arm.
Ajax started off well against Heracles, a team they had lost to in the very first rond of play, 2-1. Despite the visitors’ 5-man defense, the home team made combinations reaching deep into the Almelo team’s penalty kick area. This created opportunities. Donny van de Beek shot onto the post in the 4th minute.
Deserved better fate
An Ajax attack in the 13th minute deserved a better fate. Justin Kluivert made a pass from the left, Hakim Ziyech made a heel-pass to Lasse Schöne, but keeper Castro flicked the shot out of the upper corner. In the 21st minute, Neres found the keeper – clad in bright yellow- on his path and, shortly thereafter, Kluiver shot over.
Rasmus Kristensen also appeared regularly on the opposite side, which almost resulted in his first Ajax goal in the 36th minute. The ball ended up against the upper corner, instead on in it.
Everyone waited for the opening goal, but it didn’t come before the break, because even from Ziyech’s free kick, De Ligt managed to send the ball over the crossbar. Heracles didn’t have many comebacks to this, although Kuwas’ shot right before the break came dangerously close to the goal.
Thus, it all needed to happen for Ajax in the second half. Ziyech remained on a roll with beautiful passes, but his team mates failed to finish off successfully until the 63rd minute. It was then that Neres beautifully rounded off a pass from the play-maker, 1-0. After that, Kluivert should have doubled the margin, but from his free position, he sent the ball over the upper corner.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Ten Hag brought in Siem de Jong for Kristensen. Five minutes earlier, goal-scorer Neres had left the field. Noussair Mazraoui was his replacement. Huntelaar left as well in order to make way for Kasper Dolberg’s return. It was his first playing time of 2018. Those 8 minutes were too short for him to experience the joy of scoring again. The game remained 1-0.
Next week, Ajax will go to PSV to ensure that the championship celebration doesn’t take place just yet.