Ajax did what it needed to do on Sunday against VVV-Venlo. Although no great football was played, the meeting in the Seacon Stadion De Koele was won with relative ease. After ninety minutes, a respectable 0-3 score was posted on the scoreboard. FC Twente and Vitesse’s losses that same afternoon added even more shine to the Amsterdam team’s win.
Ajax had to make do without the suspended Niklas Moisander in Venlo. The Fin was replaced by Stefano Denswil in the heart of Ajax’s defense. The youngster’s main task was to shadow VVV- centre forward Uche Nwofor and stop him from scoring. One week after Joël Veltman got a chance against Vitesse, Frank de Boer once again put his confidence in an Ajax player from its own youth academy. The physically strong Denswil played an outstanding game. “He played flawlessly”, said De Boer about his young central defender - who plays exceptionally mature football.
Directly after referee Ruud Bossen’s first whistle, the Amsterdam team faced a massive opening offensive play from VVV-Venlo. Bryan Linssen opened the attack during the first minutes with a terrific shot which disappeared next to the goal. Had the active Barry Maguire aimed a bit more carefully only minutes later, he would have assisted Nwofor to place his attempt in front of Kenneth Vermeer. As it was, the pass never reached the Nigerian Venlo player.
After a series of opportunities, big and small, for the guests (centre forward Siem de Jong was often involved), Christian Eriksen struck with a golden through-pass after roughly thirty minutes. The Dane aimed clearly and saw several seconds later how receiver De Jong first controlled the ball beautifully, and then rounded off coolly: 0-1. This halftime lead for Amsterdam more than deserved considering the balance on the field in the first half.
Despite having been active on Thursday in a cup match (0-4 win against Vitesse in Emmen), this didn’t show in the play or initiatives taken by De Boer’s team. After being trounced by AZ in the previous round of play (4-1), VVV had a whole week to prepare for the match against Ajax in De Koel. Just like earlier this season in the ArenA (2-0 win), Ton Lokhoff’s bravely fighting men were really no match for the current national champion. Their second to last position in the rankings also illustrates the Venlo team’s limited means. Whereas Ajax is striving for its third title in a row, VVV’s main goal is to stay alive.
After the competition loss against Vitesse, Ajax also had something to prove in the Eredivisie. “VVV-away is the first match in a series of four that we absolutely need to win”, De Boer had stated on Friday. After VVV-Venlo, Roda JC, RKC Waalwijk and ADO Den Haag must also be defeated. Everything to stay on course for the championship. Daley Blind was among the Ajax players who, in that respect, delivered good work for his team. The left back played steadily (except one dangerously played back ball) and confidently, while making a contribution offensively. Blind junior’s confidence will definitely have grown since last Friday.
As of that day, the wing defender belongs to the Dutch national team’s selection for a practice interland against Italy. Blind won’t have to travel far, because the interland against the Azzuri will take place on Wednesday in the Amsterdam ArenA. Kenneth Vermeer and Ricardo van Rhijn have also received invitations from national team coach Louis van Gaal. Blind’s play was typical of the steady playing that Ajax exhibited in Venlo. Without blatantly taking charge, Ajax got a full passing grade for the way they played.
Nwofor would have done the Limburg team a great service if his header before the break had gone under, instead of over, the crossbar. The Nigerian, on a Maquire pass, aimed sloppily and thus let the guests off the hook. Right winger Jody Lukoki shot later in front of Niki Mäenpää’s goal. On the rough field of de Koel, a messy, lively second half unfolded. Viktor Fischer scored a second goal for the guests after an hour of play. The young Dane had been almost invisible for the previous sixty minutes. After Fischer, from outside the box, scored beautifully (0-2), everyone in De Koel suddenly knew that he was there. With a second goal under Ajax’s belt, this competition duel was as good as decided.
“I saw a very good Ajax”, De Boer complimented his Ajax players during the press conference. “Especially after the 0-1, we didn’t run into any problems at all. On this field, which isn’t the best field in the Netherlands, we played some fantastic position play. Compliments go to the entire team. We played it out very well, too. I thought we were very strong.”
With substitutes Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, Derk Boerrigter and Danny Hoesen in the wings, Ajax brought this match at VVV to a good end. Substitute Boerrigter, with his 0-3 goal, had the last word. The forward shot in the box, clearly and precisely. This victory brings Ajax into second place in the rankings, behind leader PSV. After losses by FC Twente and Vitesse, the deficit with the Eindhoven team is three points.