SUNDAY 17TH AUGUST 2014
AZ ALKMAAR 1 – 3 AJAX
A comfortable win for Ajax after controlling the game for most of the 90 minutes, save for a short spell during which AZ scored. AZ lacked the cutting edge that Aron Jóhannsson surely would have provided and could only manage three shots on target while Ajax were comfortable and assured in possession writes Ryan O’Grady.
PSV’s large margin of victory yesterday meant that only by winning by a few themselves could either team go top. AZ’s manager and former Ajax player and legend Marco Van Basten was hoping to beat his former side for the first time ever in his managerial career. He named an unchanged side from the win away at Heracles while Frank de Boer brought in two of the Netherland’s World Cup stars, Jasper Cillessen and Daley Blind, for their first game of the Eredivisie season. Ajax were coming off the back of a slightly unconvincing 4-1 win against Vitesse Arnhem on opening weekend.
Ajax were very comfortable in the first half with more of the possession and they had the better chances. AZ lacked a presence upfront with Tankovic, who to be fair is not an out and out striker but with Aron Jóhannsson still out with injury there was really no other option for Van Basten.
The game started off quite slowly with Ajax’s Ricardo Kishna having the best early chance after being put through by a wonderful ball from Blind but AZ keeper Alvarado stood tall and saved it easily. AZ had a couple of shots on target in the first half and one of those came in the 10th minute when Ajax defender Ligeon dallied on the ball and was dispossessed by Hupperts on the edge of the box and the ball eventually came back to Hupperts who had a shot well saved by Cillessen.
Then in the 15th minute a lovely bit of play from the Ajax players was rounded off by a through ball from Schöne which took out three defenders and was picked up by Davy Klaassen inside the corner of the box before a lovely low finish into the near side corner of the net.
The response from AZ came six minutes later when they had a free kick near the touchline crossed in by Berghuis and Tankovic had a free header in the box that he put just wide. This was followed by a quite spell of around ten minutes and that was ended when Sigthorsson received the ball outside the box and spun his defender but lost his balance allowing Alvarado to collect easily.
Four minutes later, Sigthorsson was lucky not to be sent off after losing control of the ball before lunging into a tackle on Poulsen who thankfully managed to lift his foot before contact was made, Sigthorsson escaped with a yellow. The rest of the half only contained a few half chances the best of which fell to Berghuis when he had a header across goal that was easily saved by Cillessen.
During the break, Frank de Boer brought off Ricardo Kishna for Anwar El Ghazi presumably because of an injury to Kishna as he didn’t play badly in the first half. This worked out well in the end, as El Ghazi was one of the best players in the second half. The break also constituted a change of tactics from Marco Van Basten and his side who pressed noticeably higher up the pitch after the interval and this paid off almost immediately.
First Hupperts brought down a ball beautifully in the box before releasing a weak shot that went wide of the post, then from the subsequent goal kick the ball was given to Ajax defender Nick Viergever who immediately gave it to Guus Hupperts and he sent a ball across the box which was missed by Henriksen before being followed up by Steven Berghuis who supplied an almost identical finish to Klaassen’s earlier goal.
This opened up the game and there were frequent chances at either end for both sides including a great chance for substitute El Ghazi who beat two defenders inside the box before wasting a clear shot on goal by playing a ball across the six-yard box that was easily cleared.
Then in the 69th minute there was a comical moment when Schöne appeared to take the ball over the line at the side of the box and both Schöne and the AZ defender just looked at the ball before realising it was still in, Schöne reacted quickest and beat a couple of defenders before sending a lovely curled effort in from the edge of the ‘d’ into the bottom right corner.
Following the goal there was a period of Ajax pressure to try and put the team 3-1 up and out of AZ’s reach. The best chance in this period came when both Sigthorsson and Wuytens went for the ball near the halfway line but the AZ defender was half-hearted in his attempt allowing Sigthorsson to race clear but he took to long to get his shot off in the box that Poulsen was able to cover and put the Ajax striker off causing Sigthorsson to fall over with what appeared to be a wry smile as he appealed for a penalty which was never going to be given.
Wuytens was then booked shortly after as he blocked off El Ghazi from racing clear. The pressure continued in the 78th minute when the ball broke to Sigthorsson on the edge of the box but he yet again wasted what should’ve been an easy goal for someone of his standard. Schöne then had a chance in the 83rd minute when El Ghazi broke into the box before playing it across to Schöne who had a try from a tight angle blocked by Poulsen for a corner.
The resulting corner was delivered into the box and Sigthorsson rose to meet it only for it to ricochet off the post and fall to the feet of Viergever who had a shot saved by the keeper.
The win was rounded off in the 89th minute when the impressive El Ghazi scored his first ever senior goal with a lovely effort from a similar position to Schöne’s goal but this time the ball went into the top left corner leaving the keeper rooted to the spot. The game ended in bad taste after a foul on El Ghazi in the 92nd minute led to a coming together of most of the 22 players on the field but referee Kevin Blom managed to regain control of the situation before booking Hupperts, Gouweleeuw and Moisander.
AZ: Esteban, Johansson (Elm 77), Gouweleeuw, Wuytens, Poulsen, Gudelj, Henriksen, Ortiz, Berghuis, Tankovic (Rosheuvel 84), Hupperts.
SUBS NOT USED: Rochet, Luckassen, Hoedt, Haps, Haye.
GOALS: Berghuis 50.
BOOKINGS: Wuytens 75, Hupperts 90+3, Gouweleeuw 90+4.
AJAX: Cillessen, Ligeon, Van der Hoorn, Moisander, Boilesen, Klaassen, Viergever, Blind (Serero 77), Schöne (El Ghazi 46), Sigthórsson, Kishna.
SUBS NOT USED: Vermeer, Tete, Riedewald, Andersen, Milik.
GOALS: Klaassen 15, Schöne 69, El Ghazi 90.
BOOKINGS: Sigthorsson 37, Moisander 90+4.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Lasse Schöne (Ajax)
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