The latest edition of Ajax – Feyenoord had all of the elements which make a Classic: goals, excitement, tense moments, artful dodging plus a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium. Two goals by centre forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson ensured a sweet 2-1 victory against this arch rival.
Coaches Frank de Boer and Ronald Koeman faced an interesting puzzle before the Klassieker. Due to injuries and suspensions, both the Ajax and Feyenoord coaches were forced to make adjustments. De Boer saw Ricardo van Rhijn receive a red card during the defeat at the hands of AZ (3-2) in that North Holland derby. The right back was suspended for the Klassieker and was replaced by Ruben Ligeon. A few days after AZ – Ajax, a collapsed long was discovered in Siem de Jong. The Ajax captain will definitely be out for six weeks.
The midfield against Rotterdam was filled in by Lasse Schöne, controller Christian Poulsen and left half Christian Eriksen. Koeman sought (and found) replacements for the suspended Jordy van Deelen and Stefan de Vrij. The Rotterdam team thus looked somewhat different than in the lost home match (1-4) in de Kuip against FC Twente.
Ajax experienced a true false start in the Klassieker, which it has won steadily since 2005 in the Amsterdam ArenA. Or, otherwise said: Feyenoord came into the lead early on – with luck on their side. With more luck, in fact, than wisdom, the balled rolled – indirectly, on a free Ruud Vormer kick – onto the feet of Graziano Pelle. The Italian was able to score from nearby: 0-1. The Rotterdam highlight from the first Klassieker of the current season took place after only six minutes.
The rest of the first half (as was the entire rest of the Klassieker) was a series of opportunities for the home team to lock up the game. It was simply one-way traffic in the direction of Erwin Mulder’s goal. First, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Bojan got in each other’s way on a crystal clear pass from Viktor Fischer. After that, Christian Eriksen shot long, Fischer’s shot was blocked and later on, Eriksen saw his attempt neutralized by Mulder. These were only three of Ajax’s many good opportunities to come about in the first thirty minutes.
After 31 minutes of Klassieker football, Ajax took a well-deserved lead. A penalty was needed and brought about by a slight foul by Vormer on Fischer. Sigthorsson shot the penalty kick hard, high and unreachable for the hopeless Mulder: 1-1. Six minutes later, Ajax’s Icelandic centre forward contributed to the score once again. Ligeon’s pass was sent pass Mulder on a header: 2-1. Nothing seemed to stand in Ajax’s way to victory after the break, with an even more painful score for the guests from Rotterdam.
A small series of opportunities after the break, plus some sloppiness from Feyenoord, gave the team some breathing space. Kenneth Vermeer held on to his concentration and sharpness for ninety minutes long, and, on the occasion of the few opportunities for his opponents, took the necessary action for his team. Pelle was the most feared Feyenoorder, but didn’t do much damage afterwards. The Amsterdam team had their opponents by the throat before the break. But in the second half, Feyenoord had chances, at times, to bring their head above water.
Ajax took a risk. The opportunity for a new, ‘lucky’ Feyenoord goal wasn’t among the feasible possibilities given this minimal lead. Instead of building the lead even more, the margin remained worryingly small, but fortunately in Ajax’s advantage. With the powers of Danny Hoesen (for Krkic), Thulani Serero (for Schone) and Mike van der Hoorn, making his debut (Ligeon), the victory would be assured in the last fifteen minutes.
That proved to be an easy task. The Rotterdammers, including loaned out player Samuel Armenteros, who was making his debut, were empty. Ajax kept hunting for a goal, but the real power to make it happen was lacking. Toby Alderweireld sustained an injury, but it won’t have any consequences for him. He will be able to continue to train.
“Feyenoord wasn’t able to play the match out, but our sloppiness could have cost us dearly”, said Frank de Boer at the press conference afterwards. “The second half was bad from our side.”
“It was only when Serero came onto the team that we had more control. Fortunately we won this match. Last season, we would have tied this type of game. We worked hard, but could have created more opportunities with good position play.”
With the win, Ajax booked a sweet Klassieker victory. Feyenoord is experiencing an epically bad start to the season, with zero points to date from the first three rounds of play. For Ajax, the world looks very different; with the 2-1 win, their second competition win was in the bag. Daley Blind (celebrating his 100th match in Ajax 1 and 150th Ajax in the Club of 100) returned home after the Klassieker in an extra festive mood. For Ajax Player of the Match Sigthorsson, it was likely much the same.
“I was happy with the way Kolbeinn was in the game”, said De Boer, looking back with praising words for Sigthorsson. “He was very threatening today. Feyenoord had a hard time with him. I think that it will give him a boost for the next games.”
Keep watching Ajax TV for highlights of Ajax – Feyenoord, and reactions afterwards from Frank de Boer, Ruben Ligeon, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Kenneth Vermeer.