Every week seems to be an important one for Ajax at the moment, but this one was even more significant than most. It started in the Champions League and ended with an Eredivisie tie against NAC Breda which was made more significant by PSV’s result the day before.
Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to Real Madrid was Ajax’s first knockout game in the competition since the 2004/05 season. They weren’t intimidated by the occasion at all though, as they dominated large periods of the play. They created chances as well, with Dušan Tadić hitting the post and Hakim Ziyech having a clear chance saved well by Thibaut Courtois.
Ajax were even the first to have the ball in the net, though it was ruled out for offside. A corner was sent into the box by Ziyech, Matthijs de Ligt won the initial header which popped up in front of Courtois. The Belgian stopper wasn’t able to catch the ball, as it his his shoulder and Nicolás Tagliafico was the first to react, heading it into the net. However, when VAR was used following the incident it was adjudged that Tadić had impeded Courtois from an offside position when the Argentine headed the ball in.
Despite being on top, Ajax hadn’t managed to get themselves on the score sheet and were punished for that on the hour mark. Vinicius Junior drove with the ball at his feet, worked his way into the box before cutting across both centre backs and laying the ball off to Karim Benzema who finished the move off clinically to make the score 1-0 to Real Madrid.
Ajax struck back in the 75th minute when David Neres was played in behind the Madrid defence and cut the ball back to Ziyech. When the ball reached the Moroccan he made no mistake, side footing the ball past Courtois. However, Real Madrid retook the lead in the 87th minute when Daniel Carvajal’s ball across goal was converted by Marco Asensio. There was some controversy with this though, as Lucas Vasquez appeared to foul Frenkie de Jong off the ball during the build up which wasn’t reviewed by VAR. This means that Ajax now go to Madrid with a deficit to make up.
Once the game was over Ajax’s thoughts will have turned to the Eredivisie despite their frustrations. That means keeping an eye on PSV’s results as well as getting wins of their own at the moment, as Ajax went into the week seven points behind the league leaders.
PSV’s match against Heerenveen was yesterday and gave Ajax plenty of encouragement. The leaders went two goals down for the second game in a row. However, PSV had equalised with a late goal last time out and did so again this time around. This time it was a 95th minute strike from substitute Donyell Malen which earned PSV a draw. Despite them managing to salvage a point, the result meant there was still an opportunity for Ajax to close the gap by two points.
Ajax had to be patient in today’s game, as they were frustrated by NAC Breda’s deep defensive line in the early stages, but they eventually won comfortably. They were gifted their opener in the 38th minute when Ziyech’s free kick was handled by Dorian Dervite in the penalty area. Tadić stepped up to take the penalty and converted it, even with Benjamin van Leer diving the correct way.
The game opened up for Ajax once the first goal went in and they ended up winning 5-0, as Tadić got another, Kasper Dolberg got on the score sheet and NAC Breda deflected two efforts in which were called as own goals.
Ajax will be hoping to close the gap even further when they face ADO Den Haag next Sunday.