Just four days after throwing away a two goal lead to draw with Heerenveen, Ajax faced them again in the KNVB Beker quarter final last night. By surrendering the win they had also lost their opportunity to go top of the Eredivisie table, so will have been eager to put things right in the cup.
That was evident, as it took Ajax just over two minutes to get themselves ahead. Rasmus Nissen Kristensen was played down the line by Hakim Ziyech. When the Dane got to the ball he made a low pass into the box, which Donny van de Beek dummied for Noussair Mazraoui who finished the move with a first time side footed finish past Warner Hahn.
It only took them until the 16th minute to double their lead. Ziyech sent a corner to the back post, Matthijs de Ligt rose above his marker but couldn’t get a clean contact on the ball to send it towards goal. Instead it dropped down to van de Beek who was on hand to volley it into the net.
There was a moment of concern for Ajax though, as Mazraoui –who’d been playing in a central midfield role rather than at right back- was brought off injured in the 30th minute. The Moroccan had been hurt after making a shot in the 24th minute, he tried to play on but eventually had to be replaced by Lasse Schöne.
Ajax remained dominant after the change and added a third goal in the 38th minute. Daley Blind played a superb pass for Dušan Tadić to chase down the line. Once the Serbian got there he dinked it past the goalkeeper and into the six-yard box, where van de Beek beat the defender and pounced to get the ball into the goal.
Despite going into half time three goals up, Ajax will have been wary of giving Heerenveen any hope of getting back into the game after the events on Sunday. They remained comfortable for the majority of the match, dominating possession and controlling every aspect of the play.
That is until the 84th minute, when Kristensen received the ball from Schöne inside his own box and played a blind pass intended for André Onana. Rather than going back to the Ajax goalkeeper, it went straight to the feet of Pelle van Amersfoort who took one touch to turn, used another to get it out of his feet, opened his body and curled the ball out of Onana’s reach to make it 3-1.
Suddenly things didn’t seem so easy for the Amsterdammers as madness ensued. In the 88th minute debutant Lisandro Magallán conceded a penalty when he brought Sam Lammers down inside the box. The striker on loan from PSV had been the main thorn in Ajax’s side on the weekend, as it was his two goals which helped Heerenveen secure the draw, so there was a feeling he was going to upset the balance of the game again. However, his penalty was saved well by Onana, who sprung to his left to keep the ball out with his midriff.
That save was enough to quash any late comeback hopes from Heerenveen, with the final score settling at 3-1. Ajax will now face either Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar or Willem ll in the semi final as they look to win the KNVB Beker for the first time since 2010.