SUNDAY 31ST AUGUST
FC GRONINGEN 2 – 0 AJAX
After losing at home to fellow title challengers PSV last weekend, Ajax were desperate to get back to winning ways in a tricky looking fixture against FC Groningen at the Euroborg. However, the Amsterdammers produced a very flat performance and they looked lost without their star man Daley Blind, who sealed his £14 million move to Manchester United yesterday writes Simon Prue.
FC Groningen began the game well and dominated possession throughout the first half. Antonia provided the outlet for Groningen and his pace was causing all sorts of problems for Boilesen with his pace and trickery.
After a slow start, Ajax grew into the game as Ricardo Van Rhijn’s deflected cross was well saved by Padt. Attempts from El Ghazi and Klassen followed but Ajax could not find the breakthrough. Ajax started to have longer periods of possession and this culminated in Lasse Schone’s delightful 21st minute reverse pass which put Kolbeinn Sigthorsson through on goal but the Icelandic striker’s lack of confidence was evident as he opted to cut the ball back across the box to Davy Klaassen rather than slot the ball home.
FC Groningen showed occasional signs of their counter attacking threat during the first half as Tjaronn Chery had a number of efforts comfortably saved by Dutch international Jasper Cillessen.
Groningen gifted Ajax a golden opportunity just before half time with some woeful defending as Kappelhof lost possession in the penalty area and Ajax nearly capitalised as Klaasen teed up El Ghazi only for the Dutchman to fire miserably over the crossbar.
Erwin van der Looi’s teamtalk clearly inspired his players at half time as they came firing out of the blocks and Eric Botteghin’s 48th minute goal put the hosts 1-0 ahead. Van Der Velden played Chery in down the left hand side of the penalty area and Chery’s cut back found Betteghin who converted from three yards out.
The hosts continued to pile pressure on Ajax as Antonia’s cross found Chery who had the chance to double the lead from eight yards out but he could only poke the ball straight into the hands of Cillessen.
On the hour mark Ajax began to assert themselves once again as some great skill from El Ghazi allowed him to send a wicked cross into Sigthorsson but the out of form striker could only glance his header wide of the goal. El Ghazi then cut the ball inside onto his left foot with a backheel and his shot flew past Padt’s left hand post. If Ajax were going to get a breakthrough it was going to be through the ingenuity of El Ghazi and he came very close to levelling in the 82nd minute. He wriggled his way past Kappelhof wonderfully but he could only blaze over the bar from close range.
FC Groningen then caught Ajax on the counter as substitute Michael de Leeuw wrapped up the game in the 87 minute. Van Der Velden and Chery linked up just as they did for the first goal and Chery’s dangerous cross was met by the onrushing de Leeuw who nodded home from six yards out.
There was a late surge of pressure from the visitors as Duarte and El Ghazi both saw efforts go close. Davy Klassen had a good opportunity to restore some pride deep in stoppage time but his volley did not trouble Padt and the ball rolled wide of the mark.
It is two defeats in a row now for Ajax who look nothing like a side that are challenging for an unprecedented fifth consecutive Eredivisie title.
GRONINGEN: Padt, Hiariej, Botteghin, Kappelhof, Van Nieff, Kieftenbeld, Chery, Lindgren, Van der Velden (Hagenauw 90), Hoesen (De Leeuw 73), Antonia.
SUBS NOT USED: Van der Vlag, Islamovic, Saban, Hateboer, Baas.
GOALS: Botteghin 48, De Leeuw 87.
AJAX: Cillessen, Van Rhijn, Veltman, Moisander (Van der Hoorn 81), Boilesen, Klaassen, Viergever, Serero (Duarte 81), El Ghazi, Sigthórsson, Schöne (Kishna 72).
SUBS NOT USED: Vermeer, Ligeon, Andersen, Milik.
BOOKINGS: Boilesen 36.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tjaronn Chery (FC Groningen)
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