Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag will have been absolutely delighted to watch as his side delivered a consummate performance to chalk up a 4-1 win over VVV-Venlo at their De Koel stadium on Saturday.
The Sons of the Gods were efficient if not enthralling as they eased passed Robert Maaskant’s outfit to keep them at the top of the pile in the Eredivisie — as champions last season it is, of course, a position with which they are entirely familiar.
But Ten Hag won’t be able to deny that even though he recognises the importance of nabbing the win, he also would have had one eye on Tuesday when the Amsterdam giants go to Cyprus to face Apoel Nicosia in the first leg of their Champions League play-off tie. The clash comes about after Ten Hag’s men defeated Greek side PAOK.
After their exploits in the competition last time of asking (when they reached the semi-final only to be knocked out by the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur), it is seen as vital important that Ajax enjoy a decent run in the Champions League.
But first they had to deal with the minnows from Venlo and, in truth, they did with it ease. Ten Hag preferred Perr Schuurs and Eredivisie debutant Quincy Promes to Joel Veltman and David Neres in his side and had to contend with one enforced change with the injured Noussair Mazraoui replaced by Sergino Dest, another Eredivisie debutant
Against an unambitious home side keen to repel and defend and with not much thought at all to attacking, Ajax showed their class — and yet they had to wait and be patient and didn’t actually make the breakthrough until a minute before the interval. Jet-heeled Hakim Ziyech snatched the all-important goal and it gave the visitors every reason to think they could now dominate proceedings after the break. They did exactly that, much to the joy of the travelling Ajax fans.
Just four minutes in to the second half, former Southampton schemer Dusan Tadic slotted home a penalty kick to make it 2-0, with the ever-lively Klaas Jan Huntelaar getting in on the act with a well-taken goal on 66 minutes. And David Neres made it 4-0 ten minutes later although there was a consolation strike for the home supporters to cheer when, In the 89th minute, Evert Linthorst found the back of the net. It was too little too late.
Now all the attention turns to the game on Tuesday and the Ajax followers will hope that their coach can boost their team with an inspirational team talk to help them get a result to bring back to Holland for the home leg of the tie. Something along the lines of his words he used before the victory over PAOK would no doubt do. Then he said:
“Our attitude has to be that we are going to win this game. That’s what we’re going for — and that what suits us.”
It would of course suit them once more!