One week after their resounding victory against SC Heerenveen, Ajax returned for a repeat performance against their hosts Vitesse. As it previously had in the ArenA, a convincing 5-1 victory graced the scoreboard in the Gelredome. “This was a good win”, said a satisfied Jol.
After their stellar performance against SC Heerenveen, Vitesse appeared to be a bothersome obstacle. Especially in light of recent statistics. Ajax hadn’t managed to leave Arnhem with a single victory during the last three years. The last Vitesse-Ajax match resulted in a humiliating 1-4 defeat for Amsterdam natives.
A tentative start resulted in an early setback for the guests. After just four minutes, Dalibor Stevanovic was there to punish Ajax for not clearing the ball well enough. Ajax didn’t manage to clear the ball well from a corner, and the Vitesse player from Slovenia scored from close by, 1-0.
But the hosts didn’t enjoy their lead for long. Ten minutes after the opening goal, Pantelic got into the thick of the game. The Serbian player received a low, clean pass from Suarez, kept his cool, and crowned his play with a beautiful shot which sailed beyond Eloy Room’s reach. The Vitesse keeper’s first play thus made way for a goal. Minutes before the tying goal, Piet Velthuizen – Vitesse’s steady starting goalie – left the field, injured after a collision with Jan Vertonghen.
Room’s substitution was nothing if not eventful, at the hands of Ajax. Four minutes after the tying goal, Room surrendered again. This time, Pantelic sent a header, from a high pass from the outstanding Vurnon Anita, straight into the goal. With the score now turned in Ajax’s favour, the team was easily able to control the rest of the first half. Shortly before the break, the Gelderland natives made an attempt to get back in the game. Stevanovic played the ball onto Alderweireld’s hand. But Bossen didn’t see this as an intentional hand ball, therefore no penalty was called.
The second half was all blue skies for Ajax. Pantelic’s quick third goal definitely broke Vitesse’s spirit. Alderweireld split open the defence with a pass. The Serb defeated Room with a cool low shot. With his shining performance against Vitesse, this Ajax player seems to have finally taken the wind out of his critics’ sails. “The criticism of him says more about people’s lack of knowledge about competitions abroad”, said Martin Jol at the press conference after the game. “When he came to Ajax, he hadn’t played in a long time. And actually, Pantelic has been important for us for the last two months.” Number nine’s hat trick ended another groundless discussion. According to some, Ajax has been too dependent on Suarez’s scoring and intuition. Sunday, the captain’s main role in the game was making passes.
Ajax continued to create good opportunities. Gregory van der Wiel – who was directly in the national coach’s line of sight – came close to scoring with a hard long range shot, but Room ticked it wide. Across the field, substitute Lasse Nilsson also came close to scoring. The Swede got the ball past Stekelenburg, but also saw his shot go wide.
Substitute Kennedy enjoyed good fortune in his first play. Pantelic’s replacement was on the receiving end of a beautiful Suarez play. The Uruguayan worked around the offside trap and found the Swede, who had kept up with him: 1-4. Three minutes later, Aissati scored the last goal with a hard shot: 1-5. He celebrated his goal by mimicking shots being fired with a corner flag. The message was clear: Aissati’s shot was sharp, and Vitesse ended up as sitting ducks for Ajax.
“All told, with five goals and so few opportunities given away, this was a good win for us”, determined Jol. Ajax remains hot on PSV and Twente’s tracks. The front runners for the league title both won their Eredivisie duels this weekend. But this convincing win adds fuel to the fire for the Europa League duel this Wednesday against the Romanian team Timisoara.