Ahead of next week’s Eredivisie season kick-off, champions Ajax faced KNVB Beker winners AZ Alkmaar at the Amsterdam ArenA for the coveted Johan Cruyff Schaal (Shield), in the usual season preview to the upcoming campaign. Ajax were looking to finally end an curse in this match which has seen the Amsterdammers which has seen them lose the match the last three seasons consecutively, although they went on to win the Eredivisie title on all three occasions. Not a bad consolation prize, but it was a case of third time lucky for Frank de Boer’s side this evening, coming back from two goals down to finally clinch the Shield.
AZ 2-3 AJAX
AFTER EXTRA TIME
The first 45 minutes were a cautious affair from both sides of the pitch but after a goal-less first-half, but in the second period, the game opened up and delivered four goals.
The first goal was produced against the run of play after Ajax defender Daley Blind was knocked down on the edge of AZ’s penalty area by Jeffrey Gouweleeuw. Gouweleeuw launched the ball forward as the AZ attack had a three on two advantage. The Icelandic attack linked up well as Aron Jóhannsson squared to an unmarked Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson who buries it past Kenneth Vermeer to put the underdogs ahead. Coach De Boer was furious that the foul had not been given up the pitch before the goal.
Moments after the restart, it was nearly 2-0. AZ surged forward again and when the ball was threaded through to always pressing Gouweleeuw, he poorly hit his shot straight at Vermeer, but Ajax were on the ropes.
Gertjan Verbeek’s men did get their second goal with some good work from their midfield exposing some defensive frailties from the Amsterdam side. Markus Henriksen and Roy Beerens linked up well to split the Ajax backline and left Jóhannsson to tap home to double the lead. De Boer acted by bringing on 18-year-old Danish attacker Lucas Andersen for the on-loan Bojan Krcic, who had largely been disappointing.
Ajax grabbed a goal back with an unlucky own goal. Up stepped Christian Eriksen with the free-kick which ricocheted off Gouweleeuw’s head and into the goal.
Toby Alderweireld hit a long-range effort straight at Esteban Alvarado but the Costa Rican goalkeeper could just parry the effort into the feet of yet another Icelandic, Kolbeinn Sigþórsson to level the game up with fifteen minutes of time remaining.
With chances for either side going begging, the game ended 2-2 on 90 minutes and headed into extra-time. Moments into the first-half, attacking AZ full-back Mattias Johansson found space inside the box but pulled his shot narrowly wide, a huge let-off for De Boer’s side.
Ajax finally took the lead in the match on 103 minutes, Eriksen whipping in a high cross for Siem de Jong to nod home from the back post. Ajax continued to look for goals hitting AZ on the counter while the Alkmaar side pressed to get themselves back into the game, but time ran out for them and Ajax were awarded the Shield.
By winning the trophy this evening, De Boer has wrote himself in the record books once again. He is only the second Ajax man to have lifted the trophy as both a player and a coach, the first being Ajax legend Danny Blind.
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