Ajax has made a good start after the winter break. The winter champion defeated PSV 1-0 on Sunday in the sold-out Amsterdam ArenA. Midway through the second half, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson scored the winning goal. Thanks to the victory against the Eindhoven club, PSV now stands fourteen points behind leader Ajax.
During the training camp in Turkey, Frank de Boer said that he wanted to hand out two knock-outs straight away. First against PSV, and three days later in the cup match against Feyenoord. Part 1 of the mission was a success. The win against PSV is the seventh competition win in a row for Ajax. That’s a confidence-building record. Ajax has also kept a clean sheet for the seventh time this season in a home Eredivisie game. In ten matches, the national champion has only suffered three goals against.
Ajax was forced to play PSV without the injured Siem de Jong. The captain suffered an injury to his right thigh on Saturday during the closing training. Kolbeinn Sigthórsson replaced him at the front of the offense. On his choice for Sigthórsson, De Boer said: “He’s in good shape right now. In the end, I made a decision based on my gut. I could just as easily have chosen Danny Hoesen.” With PSV, Bryan Ruiz was the most surprising name in the line-up. During the winter break, FC Twente’s former show-stopper came over from England’s Fulham on a loan-out basis during the winter break.
PSV was more or less fighting for its last chance in the ArenA. The difference between winter champion Ajax and the Eindhoven club had increased to eleven points in the first half of the season. After Ajax’s win, the difference now stands at fourteen points. This deficit would normally be considered almost impossible to make up. De Boer: “It’s great that we have, I think, eliminated a competitor in the race for the title.”
PSV had the most scoring opportunities in the first half. With several dangerous counters, the guests had Ajax under pressure. Jürgen Locadia, Memphis Depay and Ruiz regularly turned up threateningly in front of Ajax’s goal. Thanks in part to Jasper Cillessen’s strong performance Ajax was spared a goal against. Lasse Schöne (opening minutes) and Thulani Serero (just before halftime) had the best opportunities for Ajax. “In terms of opportunities, the first half was one hundred per cent PSV. We weren’t resolute enough around our own box. Fortunately, we weren’t punished by a goal against. But still, there were phases during which we had the match under control. Namely Boilesen on Ruiz’s back gave them a tough time.”
The roles were reversed in the second half. Ajax became more dangerous, while PSV became less decisive. After about one hour, Sigthórsson decided the match. Both the goal and the attack were beautiful. Niklas Moisander sent a pass to Lasse Schöne, who in turn made a pass towards Sigthórsson. The Icelander finished beautifully with a spot-on header.
Shortly after the 1-0 goal, Sigthórsson came close to scoring two more times. First there was a nice play from Viktor Fischer at the back line. The Dane sent the ball back to the incoming Ajax centre forward, but he couldn’t reach it. Two minutes later, Sigthórsson shot the ball from far out to the PSV goal. This time, keeper Zoet stood in the way of a goal. Minutes later, on a shot from Viktor Fischer, he was left without a hope, but the shot went wide.
With the narrow 1-0 lead on the scoreboard, the game remained tense until the end. “In the closing phase, we just wanted to make it to the end. But there were also times when we had to play our way through. We managed. I’m pleased with the result, but we need to do better. Starting with next Wednesday’s match when Feyenoord visits us.”