With the Eredivisie season nearing its finish, Ajax hosted arch-rivals Feyenoord in Amsterdam on Sunday. This was a must-win for Ajax because of the Rotterdam giants’ 6-point gap at the top of the league. Star striker Kasper Dolberg and winger Amin Younes were ruled out due to injury, thrusting youngsters David Neres and Justin Kluivert into the lineup. Feyenoord were nearly full-strength to start the match; the team had only lost 2 matches before today. However, what happened on this day may go down as one of the most crucial wins in Ajax’s history.
Ajax were on the front-foot from the start as Lasse Schøne won a free-kick in Feyenoord’s half. The experienced Danish midfielder stepped up to take the shot, a shot that was quite possibly the best free-kick of all season. Schøne struck the ball with immense power and technique; it curled into the crossbar and down to the grass: over the line. The whole Ajax squad sprinted towards the corner with pure jubilation. We were up in De Klassieker with only 53 seconds played.
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) April 2, 2017
The boys in the red and white kits kept asking questions of Feyenoord keeper Brad Jones through the rest of the first half. Their persistence in attack eventually paid off as Hakim Ziyech put Neres through on goal for a simple finish. It was the first goal for the 20-year-old Brazilian on his first start for Ajax, and what a time to open his scoring account! The clock wound down to end the first half with the Amsterdammers in complete control of the affair.
The home side kept at it throughout the second half; Bertrand Traoré fluffed multiple chances to put the game to bed. Brad Jones made 6 saves to keep Feyenoord in a match that they were completely outplayed in. Abdelhak Nouri, Vaclav Cerny, and Mateo Cassierra all made substitute appearances but weren’t required to provide much in terms of goal scoring with the game all but finished. Feyenoord striker Michiel Kramer, who replaced front man Nicolai Jørgensen early in the first half due to injury, smacked a ball into the net from range in added time. It proved to be no more than a consolation goal though, and the Ajax players celebrated with the huge mass of fans: fans who provided just as much energy and passion as the players on the pitch.
This is what Ajax is all about: confidence, passion, exuberant and stylistic play, and a conceded goal to keep the fans on edge. Schøne provided one of the most insane spectacles of footballing brilliance to start off the game, while Justin Kluivert showed exactly why he’s earned the confidence of Peter Bosz with a Man-of-the-Match performance in the biggest game of his career to date. David Neres will gain confidence after scoring in such a high-pressure scenario, which is good because I really don’t know how much longer Bosz will be able to select Traoré without taking flak from the fans. If we keep playing like we did today, there will be no stopping us for the rest of the season. If only Feyenoord would drop points more often.
Ajax got the result to keep them in the title hunt, but what does this mean for the rest of the season? AZ, NEC, Heerenveen, PSV, Go Ahead Eagles, and Willem II are the remaining fixtures for De Godenzonen. AZ and Heerenveen are no walkovers, and PSV away will obviously be a tough game. Feyenoord’s final matches consist of Go Ahead Eagles, PEC Zwolle, Utrecht, Vitesse, Excelsior, and Heracles. One look at these games and you’d say Feyenoord have the clear path to the title, especially being a full 3 points clear. On the other hand, Utrecht and Vitesse are both quality teams capable of pulling off an upset. The title race could well come down to the final kick of the season.