Moroccan maestro Hakim Ziyech could have easily been another super-talented Ajax star that moved away from the Sons of the Gods over the summer. He was said to be a target for a clutch of European powerhouse outfits, among them said to be Premier League giants Liverpool and Arsenal.
But unlike players such Matthijs de Ligt — who swapped the red and white for the black and white of Italian outfit Juve — and Frenkie de Jong, currently plying his trade at Spanish champions Barca, playmaker Ziyech stayed at the Johan Cruyff Arena. A good job he did too. That would be the summation, short and swift though it be, from Ajax coach Erik ten Hag after the 4-1 win at Sparta at the weekend.
Ziyech grabbed a brace of goals and led the home defence a merry dance for much of the match as Ajax easily added another victory to their campaign; a season so far that has seen them unbeaten in eight matches across all competitions. Yes, they are in form it is fair to say!
But in form doesn’t mean on top; that privilege belongs to Vitesse Arnhem — but more of then later. This was a routine win over Sparta. As well as a Ziyech double (the first after half an hour when he latched on to a lovely ball from Dusan Tadic, the second, on the hour came from the same combination), there were goals for Tadic and Quincy Promes. Tadic’s strike came from the spot to make it 3-0 and the latter opened the scoring for the visitors when he cashed in on a superb pass from Lisandro Martinez to smash home.
So, Ajax share second spot on the same tally as PSV but both teams have played one game fewer than league leaders Vitesse Arnhem. They are at the summit courtesy of beating AZ Alkmaar — their first loss of the season — thanks to a late spot-kick. Sub Oussama Darfalou seemed to have snatched victory with his very first touch when he tucked it in following Marco Bizot’s parry of Matus Beto’s penalty. But VAR joined the fray and the panel of judges saw that Darfalou had encroached in the box and Dennis Higler said Beto must retake the kick — and he scored.
Now Ajax have time to gather their collective thoughts as they contemplate an international break. They have a host of international stars on duty and will hope that they can call on a squad of fit players available when they go on to their next Eredivisie encounter at home to Heerenveen on September 14. If you were to ask Ten Hag to be indiscreet and pick one player who he didn’t want to be injured in any way it would have to be that maestro Ziyech!