Ajax has started the 2012-2013 season with a loss in the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate XVII. In a sold out Amsterdam ArenA, cup winner PSV was treated to a win by the national champion, 4-2. The way in which the Eindhoven team exposed Ajax’s shortcomings was painful. The first game was lost, but an exciting season lies ahead.
Many Ajax players must have been looking forward to the moment when the ball really started rolling, at the official start of the 2012-2013 season. It was just a shame that, in the sold out, lively Amsterdam ArenA, the ball rolled the other way for Ajax in the opening phase of the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate. The match between the cup winner and the national champions was only three minutes old when PSV scored. The manner in which the goal was scored was partly the champions’ own fault. Daley Blind and captain Siem de Jong were too late to reach Ola Toivonen and stop his header: 1-0.
Eight minutes later, the second Eindhoven goal was on the scoreboard. This happened during a period during which a Toby Alderweireld header was stopped by Van Bommel at the goal line. Blind didn’t look good at 2-0, either, when he let himself get misled simply by Jeremain Lens. The PSV centre forward simply turned away from his opponent, after which his long sprint was crowned with a lob over Kenneth Vermeer: 2-0. Ajax was experiencing a poor start due to the quick opening goal, but, within fifteen minutes, the situation had become dramatic.
“You get a shock in the first half”, said Frank de Boer, looking back mostly on the match’s opening phase. “I felt like I was watching summer evening football. The two goals had to do with being sharp. They were moments to be sharp and fresh. It was too careless. I said that to the players during the break.” About Blind’s role in the 2-0 score, he said: “He knows that Lens is faster. Then, you need to get him, or commit a smart foul. He didn’t do that.”
A walk over seemed to be in the making, but Ajax (as reigning champion, they were the ones who were out-played in the Supercup match) pulled itself together just in time. Ajax was able to apply more pressure. Right before the break, the ‘away’ team managed to score a well deserved goal. One minute before the break, Alderweireld’s header, on a Theo Janssen corner, hit the mark this time. The 2-1 was a moral boost. It ensured that the champions retreated to the locker room with more confidence. With a bit more luck, the tying goal would also have been scored in the first half. But at the ‘moment supreme’, captain De Jong let the ball bounce away from his foot.
Basis players Viktor Fischer and Mitchell Dijks made their official debut as Ajax players against PSV. The left winger and left back made the most of their opportunities during the pre-season. After an hour, Lasse Schone joined the rookies. The cup winner and national champion had a different perspective on the Johan Cruijff Plate XVII match. Ajax coach Frank De Boer described the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate described the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate at the ‘end of the pre-season’. A good start of the competition next week against AZ is more important for the Ajax coach. Dick Advocaat described the duel for the first football prize as PSV’s start in the new season.
The duel between Ajax and PSV was also a measuring stick between the young, fresh coach De Boer, and the more experienced, clever Advocaat. PSV’s 64 year old coach – who, in 1996 and 1997, won the Johan Cruijff Plate – had even more reason to cheer right after the break. After Ricardo van Rhijn and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson had come close to tying the game, Ola Toivonen ticked the fatal 3-1 goal in. A taste of offside remained in the aftermath of the PSV Swede’s goal. Referee Bjorn Kuipers, however, approved PSV’s third goal. This goal also exposed chinks in the Ajax defence’s armour. International Jetro Willems was able to steam ahead easily, after which left back Toivonen came into position beautifully. The Amsterdam team had no complaints when Narsingh’s attempt hit the post five minutes later.
Ajax had luck on their side when defender Marcelo sent an unstoppable ball past his own keeper Przemyslaw Tyton. The Brazilian rounded off on Ozbiliz’s pass beautifully: 3-2. Forward Davy Klaassen finished the match as Sigthórsson’s replacement. Christian Eriksen and Gregory van der Wiel were not included in De Boer’s match selection. The players – who are normally regulars – will play extra minutes in the Supercup match between Jong FC Twente and Jong Ajax. In extra time, substitute Georginio Wijnaldum scored the last goal, 4-2.
“I don’t think 4-2 is the score we deserved” , continued De Boer, pointing to a much smaller difference in strength between the two teams than the score would lead us to believe. “We went down fighting in the second half. In the end, you want to go into the season with a good feeling. That’s why I’m pleased with what we showed in the second half. But I want better football. In want to get three points in next week’s competition match against AZ.”
So, it was on Sunday evening that PSV dealt the first blow of the 2012-2013 season. Unfortunately, Ajax was the recipient of that blow. But with the start of the new Eredivisie season in sight, PSV painfully exposed Ajax’s shortcomings. On the eve of the real start of the season, the reigning national champion lost its first match, just as they had in 2011. It’s going to be a long, exciting season.