Ajax let itself get dragged into ADO Den Haag’s opportunistic battle mode. The Ajacieds experienced a setback after a relatively problem-free first half during which Davy Klaassen brought the visitors into a 0-1 lead. Eredivisie top scorer Michiel Kramer solidified his reputation when he pulled ADO even with Ajax in the final minutes: 1-1.
Before hand, there was interest shown as to how Ajax would make the transition from Parc des Princes to the Kyocera Stadium. How would the step go from worldly Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League to the daily grind of the weekly Eredivisie podium? Ajax may very well face a more difficult match in The Hague than in Paris, as Frank de Boer had expressed beforehand. Paris Saint-Germain had given their visitors room to play in Paris. It wasn’t expected that ADO would give them the same room. The Hague club had had special atmosphere props beforehand, fireworks and a DJ, pulling out all the stops to intimidate Ajax. Ajax missed having its own fans there. Just like for the Classic in de Kuip, games in The Hague are still played without Ajax supporters in the crowd.
Davy Klaassen gave his team a dream start after only eight minutes. His beautiful swipe was preceded by great preparation work. Ricardo Kishna sent his assist from the left side, after which centre forward Arek Milik sent the ball to Klaassen with a header, and this last one scored directly: 0-1. The midfielder underlined his valuable contributions of late with his opening goal. Klaassen seems to be growing more and more valuable for Frank de Boer’s team with each passing week.
From a tactical point of view, there were a few changes compared to the midweek loss against PSG. Joël Veltman and Niklas Moisander returned to Frank de Boer’s squad. Veltman had been suspended on Tuesday, and his Finnish team mate watched the game from the bench. Mike van der Hoorn and Stefano Denswil, who stood in for them in Parc des Princes, started on the bench in The Hague.
On Tuesday, Nicolai Boilesen had been Ajax’s captain. The Dane suffered a severe knee injury in Parc des Princes and will be out for a minimum of ten weeks. Nick Viergever replaced the unfortunate Boilesen on left back. Speaking of misfortune: shortly before kick-off of ADO-Ajax, Anwar El Ghazi bowed due to groin pain. The Ajax player’s name was thus crossed out from the line-up sheet at the last minute.
Up until halftime, Klaassen’s was the only goal scored. Opportunities to expand the lead and decide the game early were not converted. ADO didn’t even really manage to reach Jasper Cillessen. The Den Haag team played as expected: physically and constantly and opportunistically playing the ball long towards the front. The extremely tall Kramer was seldom reached in the first half. The Den Haag team was more notable for their sometimes obvious fouls and their seemingly inexhaustible style of send-it-long-and-let’s-go-home style of play. There wasn’t really question of strategic build-up on the Den Haag artificial turf.
After the break, ADO managed to force a breakthrough. Ajax had an alert keeper in Cillessen, who prevented a tying goal. Mike van Duinen, Mathias Gehrt and Gianni Zuiverloon all found the Ajax keeper in their way when they tried to score. Ajax declined the most when they let themselves get dragged into the Den Haag team’s style of play. Kishna and Lasse Schöne both were in a position to give Ajax a boost in the charged game. The first sent a header, a chip and a shot over the goal. Schöne saw his volley disappear wide of the ADO goal.
The missed opportunities plus the setbacks after the break cost Ajax dearly in the end. Top scorer Michiel Kramer shot the ball past Cillessen five minutes before time: 1-1. So the answer to the question that started this football afternoon was known. Ajax had made the transition from European play to the Eredivisie badly. The current national champion suffered a costly loss of points in The Hague against an Eredivisie low-flier. How costly it will end up being will be determined by the results of the delayed top match between PSV-Feyenoord