On a football afternoon which was full of surprises, Ajax defeated PEC Zwolle easily. In a sold out Ijssedelta Stadion, the match ended at 2-4. Viktor Fischer scored twice. “We earned our win today, but should have played more professionally”, said Frank de Boer in retrospect.
PEC Zwolle – Ajax quickly proved to be a match of setbacks, but fortunately, of good fortune as well. Twenty five minutes before the start, it appeared that Niklas Moisander was too sick to play. The former Zwolle player’s name was thus scratched off the line up. Moisander complained of dizziness. Mitchell Dijks swapped his spot on the bench for a sudden place among the starting eleven. Daley Blind moved from left back to Moisander’s place, central left in defense. Stefano Denswil was plucked from the crowd; he took a seat on the bench.
This tactic was reviewed six minutes after kick off of the 2.30p.m. match – a rare starting time for Ajax’s Sunday matches. After colliding with a Zwolle player, Ryan Babel left with a dislocated shoulder. The forward also left early. Lasse Schöne took the unfortunate Babel’s place, and Siem de Jong continued the match as the new centre forward.
These last minute changes didn’t seem to faze Ajax in the Ijsseldelta Stadion. The Amsterdam team seemed imperturbable, although their play was sloppy at times. Toby Alderweireld gave Ajax a 0-1 lead after twelve minutes. The Belgian central defender, after a short scrimmage which came from a Christian Eriksen corner, scored from close by. After the personal and organizational setbacks, this goal was a welcome relief.
But Alderweireld’s leaving the field fifteen minutes later due to an injury was, unfortunately, typical of this thirteenth edition of Zwolle – Ajax. The Belgian – who is young, but considering his experience, a regular on the Ajax eleven – relinquished his place to Joël Veltman. Blind, with his 22 years, was the second most experienced defender for Ajax. Dijks (19), Veltman (20) and Ricardo van Rhijn (21) followed in terms of age, but not in terms of experience.
Frank de Boer chose for Eyong Enoh as controller at midfield. The Cameroon native’s punishment was reduced on Friday (his suspension after his red card in a Jong Ajax match was reduced by one match), and he was accorded a starting spot. Christian Poulsen was relegated to the bench in Zwolle. Fortunately, Enoh remained undamaged. The same went for Viktor Fischer, who was the most surprising name in the starting line up in Zwolle.
Shortly after Alderweireld was substituted, Fischer brought his team into a more comfortable position. The young Dane, on a pass from Eriksen, sent the ball past keeper Diederik Boer (who was celebrating his 250th match for Zwolle). Because Zwolle was hardly ever coming close to Kenneth Vermeer’s goal, an Amsterdam victory seemed assured after only half an hour.
Fischer – who scored his first competition goals against PEC- seemed poised to decide the match shortly before the break. The Dane shot from a free position, but aimed sloppily and his shot ended up in Boer’s hands. Fischer’s missed goal would have been even more bitter had Youness Mokhtar had fully capitalized on the first Zwolle opportunity of the first half. Kenneth Vermeer was forced far out of his goal, but trumped Mokhtar at the crucial moment.
Three minutes before the break, Fischer, once again, made good. The Ajax player sent a header, on right winger Derk Boerrigter’s pass, flawlessly into the goal: 0-3. Just like Moisander, Boerrigter was also returning to his old club. With Ajax’s third goal, the game was over. The Zwolle team, with former Ajax player Jaap Stam as assistant to coach Ard Langeler, got more space and time to play after that. From a Zwolle perspective, this didn’t result in much – until ten minutes before time.
Cold, and on field for one minute (in for Boerrigter), Jody Lukoki had a hand in Ajax’s 0-4 goal. The quick forward rounded off a rush on the right with a pass from which – albeit indirectly – Siem de Jong scored. Matching Ajax’s last win and, and game, at Zwolle (the score was 0-5 in 2004) seemed within reach.
The home team refused to capitulate, and seemed to have more up its sleeve in the closing minutes. The Zwolle team, which had seemed so hopeless for the first eighty minutes, had something of a revival. After goals from Danny Avdic and Jesper Drost, an upset against a very young Ajax seemed to be in the making. But it didn’t get that far. In the end, Ajax made short work of PEC Zwolle – especially considering the setbacks. The fact that the deficit against leader FC Twente was reduced to seven points on Sunday is an added bonus.
“Today, I left the responsibility to defeat Zwolle in the players’ hands”, said Frank de Boer. “We were in control and were threatening. Although the control lasted about ten minutes too long. The fact that we were a bit jittery after the 0-4 is probably due to the young defense. And the last fifteen minutes is always difficult after a European match. But we deserved to win.”
Keep watching Ajax TV for highlights from PEC Zwolle, plus a retrospective from Frank de Boer, Daley Blind and Joël Veltman. Ajax TV paid special attention to Viktor Fischer in Zwolle. The Dane will be featured on Monday on Ajax TV’s De Wedstrijd van…