Ajax beat Go Ahead to keep title dreams alive

There have been many special weeks in the history of Ajax Amsterdam.

But surely few have invoked quite the passion, joy, relief and amazement all-in-one that this last 7 days has provided.

Going into the week, Ajax were just 180 minutes away from facing the reality of a hugely promising season ending in devastating fashion, with no silverware to show for the efforts of the past 10 months.

7 days and 2 incredible matches of football (at least one of these NOT in the ArenA), things look quite a bit different.

And boy, is there reason to be excited about it.

After thumping French Giants Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 on Thursday night with a stunning team performance in the first-leg of the Europa League semi-final, few doubted Ajax would repeat the feat hours later against a Go Ahead Eagles side devoid of confidence and a defeat away from relegation back to the second tier.

And it proved to be as easy as expected, as de Godenzonen cruised to a 4-0 victory over their Deventer opponents, who barely let out a whimper in their battle to avoid the drop.

With plenty of tired bodies amongst the squad following Thursday’s match Europe, and with the second leg still on the horizon is 4 days time, coach Peter Bosz rang the changes; Justin Kluivert, David Neres, Abdelhak Nouri, Heiko Westermann and Donny van de Beek all coming into the starting lineup.

It was Kluivert who opened the scoring in the 24th minute of the match with a fine strike from distance into the corner of the goal. One became two moments later as top scorer Kasper Dolberg was the beneficiary of a sublime assist from Neres,

At half-time, fellow regular star of the ever-improving Jong Ajax side Frenkie de Jong was introduced to the fray. Within 3 minutes of coming on, he tripled the lead for the Amsterdammers, instinctively heading home from close range.  Fellow Mateo Cassierra settled the victory from close range with twenty minutes left, but by that point attentions had moved 45 kilometres away to the miracle that was happening in Kralingen.

Little Excelsior Rotterdam, the giantkillers themselves, who had previously dealt Ajax a huge blow in the title race holding them to a 1-1 draw, were doing the unthinkable.

As the latest score continued to flash up on the big screen, the ArenA erupted more and more.

1-0. Cheers
2-0. Scenes.

At 3-0, complete jubilation.

Even those players on the bench could not hide their disbelief at the score. The title race was well and truly back on. Not only that, but PSV’s draw meant regardless of next Sunday’s results, Ajax are now guaranteed second position and a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

Back on the field, Go Ahead Eagles’ misery was sealed when Marcel Ritzmaier saw red with ten minutes left, but few Ajax fans cared enough, for this was an afternoon so perfect that nothing would stop them singing, smiling and looking forward to another amazing final day decider in the Eredivisie.

The dream is still alive.

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