Nouri, the guide of Jong Ajax

After Ajax’ sour loss in Eindhoven, the Eredivisie title run seems all but over. Still, it was a good season which we will, unfortunately, end without a title, most likely. Luckily for the football purists amongst us, the biggest Ajax youth sides are still battling for the title and look to be on the winning side. And in Jong Ajax, a diamond that’s only been really uncovered this season is starting to shine more brightly with every game that passes.

I’m of course speaking about Abdelhak Nouri. Appie is one of those mesmerising players that bring you to sit inside a football stadiums, looking down at the little magician in awe from the stands. Most Jupiler League fans are blessed with seeing the fragile playmaker line-up frequently in their league this season though, with Nouri representing Jong Ajax and occasionally being called up to play with the big boys. This weekend he was, yet again, my Toekomst player of the weekend.

On Friday, Jong Ajax began the football frenzy with a Jupiler League game against Helmond Sport. Keizer started out the game with Nouri, Cerny, Cassierra and Zeefuik (whom made his first team debut last weekend against Heerenveen) in his squad, amongst other regulars. After an up and down opening phase, the game really began after Ajax were given a penalty. Jong Ajax mainstay Mazraoui was brought down inside the box after a great move, allowing Ajax to take the lead from the spot. Up stepped Appie and he calmly slotted it home, giving Ajax the 1-0 lead.

Highlights Jong Ajax – Helmond Sport

Not much later, chances were created for Clement and Cerny but the wingers missed both. In the 39rd minute, Helmond Sport’s defence faltered and led themselves into defeat; Nouri picked up the ball and launched a brilliant pass in Clement’s way, setting up the winger in front of goal. Pelle did not falter and netted it, putting the 2-0 on the scoresheet.

The second half of the game was rather boring, despite Ajax creating a few chances for Nouri, Cassierra and Cerny. Luckily for Helmond Sport, they were all sloppy in their finishing and the side was spared from a large defeat. The game was marred by an injury of Mazraoui though, whom had to leave the field on a stretcher in the 53rd minute. Helmond Sport tried to get back into the game but couldn’t find the chances to do so, not coming any further than hitting the bar.

On Saturday, the U19’s set another step towards winning the title against Willem II. Winter’s boys grabbed a lead early, with Danilo Doekhi scoring a deflected header. After that goal, a meagre first half followed and Ajax did not create any notable chances. The second half proved that the senior side weren’t the only squad suffering from fatigue, as the U19’s looked empty and tired from the get-go. Three substitutions followed, and the home side felt they could grab a result. With the needed amount of luck and defensive prowess, Ajax survived the pressured final phase of the game though and returned back to Amsterdam with 3 points in the bag.

Then, last but not least, the fresh Future Cup winning U17’s played a very important game against Utrecht on Tuesday afternoon, being involved in their very own title race. Ajax started out OK, creating a few chances and one big chance via Gravenberch. The young winger unfortunately missed, but the resulting corner did lead to a goal. Botman was let free inside the box by Utrecht and cashed in on that opportunity, 0-1. Vink then took the weird decision to completely throw around his formation, leading to Gravenberch playing midfield and Ekkelenkamp leading the line. His tactical changes didn’t work at all, and left Ajax vulnerable, but Utrecht luckily didn’t capitalise on it.

In the second half, Ajax came bursting out and were able to double the lead. Utrecht made a very poor clearance, which was picked up by Gravenberch. The young winger drove a pass out wide to Ekkelenkamp, whom calmly finished it and gave Ajax a 0-2 lead in the Domstad. Maduro got a huge chance to make it 3 a bit later in the game, but failed to do so. Instead of the third goal falling for Ajax, long-ball playing Utrecht managed to get one back. In the remainder of the game, Ajax kept control and calmly finished the game 1-2. The victory means Vink’s men are just 1 point away from a league title.