Ajax was painfully disqualified from the KNVB Cup tournament on Thursday. The Amsterdam team was defeated by Vitesse, 0-4. The cup downer was reminiscent of the last season’s cup final which ended in defeat at the hands of PEC Zwolle. Ajax is still in the running for two remaining football prizes in 2015: the Eredivisie and Europa League.
Ajax and Vitesse have already met this season in the Amsterdam ArenA. The first round of play ended in a resounding 4-1 victory for the national champion in front of their home crowd. From a cup perspective, the prospects looked good beforehand. The clubs have met seven times in the national cup tournament. Ajax has won five of these meetings. On January 31, 2013, their last match was won by Ajax, 0-4.
The Ajax- Vitesse cup match started with a painful collision between Wallace and Thulani Serero. The players bumped their heads against one another. The Ajax player was able to continue after a brief medical check. For Vitesse’s right back, the game ended right there after just two minutes. Vitesse coach Peter Bosz was able to adjust his tactical approach somewhat. The Arnhem team certainly didn’t lack fighting spirit or sharpness. The Vitesse players made up for this setback, and then some, by pulling a true cup upset.
There were also some tactical surprises on the home team’s side. Frank de Boer gave his ‘cup keeper’, Diederik Boer, a starting spot. The Ajax coach had a surprise at every line. Central defender Stefano Denswil thus took Niklas Moisander’s place. Jairo Riedwald was controlling midfielder from kick-off. “Jairo needs to build up rhythm. There is a big chance that we’ll be missing Serero in the coming month at that spot due to the Africa Cup”, de Boer explained his choice for Riedewald at ‘6’. Offensively, there were starting spot for Anwar El Ghazi and Ricardo Kishna. El Ghazi and left-footed Kishna hadn’t yet started together on Ajax’s squad.
The fact that the team from Gelderland found a mediocre Ajax as an opponent was to the visitors’ full advantage. The Ajax players were unable to pose any threats for the entire match. With lots of unnecessary loss of possession and a corresponding lack of concentration, Ajax brought misery onto itself way before the break. Zakaria Labyad fired a warning shot at nineteen minutes. First, the former PSV player shook Joël Veltman off with ease. But Labyad shot just wide. Three minutes later, Veltman fell for the same trick again, this time at the hands of Betrand Traoré. The centre forward from Burkina Faso finished off his rush with a goal: 0-1.
It was the start of a disappointing football evening. The cup loss was already a done deal before the end of the first half when Labyad scored from far away. Shortly after official Jeroen Sanders had posted the extra time, Davy Klaassen unwittingly sent his header to Labyad. His shot from 25 meters out, via the crossbar, made good: 0-2. Ajax never recovered.
This football evening would be one that all Ajacieds would rather forget quickly. Veltman misjudged when he wanted to intercept a deep ball sent to Traoré. The Vitesse player had a wide passage to Boer and once again, finished flawlessly: 0-3. Three minutes later, this one-sided match was made even more so when Valeri Qazaisvili (Vako on his jersey) punished the Ajax defense again: 0-4.
Vitesse thus clearly ended Ajax’s cup ambitions on December 18th. Since 2008, the Amsterdam club has always managed to make it through the winter break in the cup tournament. The last home game in which Ajax played with Aegon deserved a better conclusion. The stride for the nineteenth cup win in club history can only be resumed in the 2015-2016 season. That was, in this second to last match of this calendar year, the disappointing but inevitable conclusion.
“Vitesse was much more threatening, and we weren’t even getting to the middle line”, said De Boer in retrospect. “So many simple things went wrong…and that creates anxiety in the team. We also gave those four goals away. This is a very costly lesson. Ajax had a complete off day. If something like this happens in the cup, you can’t recover. I think it’s especially a shame for Diederik Boer and the supporters, who’ve faithfully stood behind us in 2014. The fans kept on encouraging us, even after the 0-3 and 0-4 goals.”