Ajax’s rollercoaster of a week

Erik Ten Hag

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.

Ajax lose further ground on PSV

Andre Onana

Ajax’s Eredivisie title hopes have taken another knock this weekend as they lost to Heracles. They went into yesterday’s game five points behind league leaders PSV Eindhoven. Things could have been even worse for the Ajacied though, as PSV only managed to get a draw in today’s away game against FC Utrecht.

Ajax started their game poorly, giving away a penalty just six minutes in when Daley Blind fouled Joey Konings while trying to retrieve Frenkie de Jong’s misplaced pass. It was Brandley Kuwas who stepped up to take the spot kick for the men in black and white, but Andre Onana dived to his left and got a strong hand on the ball to keep it out with a little help from the post.

Just over 10 minutes later Onana undid his work though as he gifted Heracles the only goal of the game. He attempted to pass the ball out from the back but it was intercepted by Mohammed Osman. The Syrian midfielder gratefully took the chance to put his side ahead, placing the ball into the corner out of the reach of Ajax’s scrambling goalkeeper.

Ajax grew into the game in the second half after their initial struggles. However, they weren’t able to get past German stopper Janis Blaswich, who was in fine form. The pick of his saves came against Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who’d got onto the end of a ball into the box, did a step over to fool the defender before flicking it towards goal- only to find his effort stopped by a strong outstretched arm.

Ajax were left frustrated as the score ended 1-0 to the home side, though their eyes will have quickly turned to today’s PSV match hoping for another shock. It seemed as though that would come as goals from Sander van de Streek and Gyrano Kerk saw FC Utrecht go into half time 2-0 up against the league leaders.

However, PSV came out in the second half and immediately put Utrecht’s goal under sustained pressure. It paid off for them as Luuk de Jong bagged a brace to get the game back on level terms. Ajax could easily have been let off the hook in the dying moments though. Utrecht were controversially denied a penalty despite the use of VAR when Denzel Dumfries slipped in the box and took Simon Gustafson down with him.

These two results mean that Ajax are now six points behind PSV Eindhoven with 13 games of the league season remaining. The two sides will play each other at the end of March in a match which could prove to decide whether the Eredivisie title goes to Amsterdam or Eindhoven at the end of the campaign. However, Ajax will want to make up ground as early as possible and this is the second time since the winter break that they’ve failed to capitalise on a PSV slip up after drawing 4-4 with Heerenveen when PSV drew with FC Emmen in their first game back.

Ajax’s attention will now be turned towards their upcoming Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie against Real Madrid on Wednesday, their first knockout game in the competition since 2005. Their next chance to close the gap on PSV will come when they face NAC Breda on Sunday.

D’Ambrosio: “We need to win for our fans and because of our history”


Danilo D’Ambrosio spoke alongside Matteo Politano during Inter’s pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial UEFA Champions League group stage match at home to PSV Eindhoven. Indeed, it will be a decisive game for the Nerazzurri, who must better Tottenham Hotspur’s result against leaders Barcelona in order to reach the Round of 16 stage of the competition. Here is what the former Torino full-back said to the gathered journalists in Appiano Gentile: Continue reading

PSV Eindhoven steal the Eredivisie title from Ajax on the final day


PSV Eindhoven clinched the Dutch Eredivisie title in dramatic circumstances on the final day after leaders Ajax dropped points to relegation-threatened De Graafschap, gifting Phillip Cocu’s men the chance to capitalise. And with PSV beating PEC Zwolle in their outing, they snatched the crown from Ajax who looked destined to reclaim the title from last season’s winners.

The final Eredivisie games were all at 13:30BST so reports will have been filtering through about events going on in the two games. PSV’s trip to Zwolle was straight-forward. They went 2-0 up at half-time and saw the game out to win 3-1 at the final whistle. Ajax’s outing, however, had a twist in the tale. Frank de Boer’s side were ahead by a single goal at half-time and looked to be on their way to winning the title, before a De Graafschap midfielder changed their fortunes.

Bryan Smeets side-footed an effort coolly into the bottom corner to level the game, and Ajax just had no answer after seeing their lead cancelled out. Smeets’ goal came in the 55th minute of the game so there was plenty of time for a response. It just didn’t come from Ajax and PSV took full advantage. Following the game, manager Cocu was understandably overjoyed and revealed he reminded his players of the time he clinched the title in similar circumstances with PSV back in 2007.

“Such an ending is fantastic. What can I say at a moment like this? What a great performance. I’m really proud of my team. Given that no one thought we could it do it, it’s even more beautiful to still manage to win the championship.
This morning at breakfast, I showed them images from the 2007 title. I told the players they always have to keep believing in the title – and now we’ve managed to win it. This is so beautiful; I’m really going to fully enjoy this now,” he said.

PSV Eindhoven finished the season top of the table with 84 points from 34 games. They picked up six straight league wins to clinch the Eredivisie title, picking up four more points than Ajax in the run-in. The holders stormed to the title in 2014/15, but few thought it was possible for them to repeat the feat after losing Memphis Depay to Manchester United and Georginio Wijnaldum to Newcastle United. In their place, PSV signed a host of new players and against all odds it’s resulted in them retaining the crown on the final day.

Manchester United all but sealing their Champions League fate following bore draw with PSV


In the Champions League this week, Manchester United were below-par in Wednesday night’s goalless draw with PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford, and now the Red Devils have a difficult task to stay in the competition this season. Louis van Gaal’s side finished the evening second in the group after five games, but have to win away to the group leaders Wolfsburg in order to book their place in the knockouts.

The Red Devils could be caught by third-placed PSV Eindhoven, who are only one point behind, and have a home outing to come against whipping boys CSKA Moscow in game week six. This means United could be eliminated from the Champions League if the Dutch Eredivisie side can better their result in the final round of games. United needed just a single goal against PSV to be in the knockouts, but now they have to go against form to prolong their stay in Europe.

Wolfsburg are top of Group B after five games and boast a 100% record on home soil. No side has even scored past the Germans in their own backyard. Manchester United are winless away from home in the Champions League, but did beat the Wolves at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign. Nevertheless, the pressure is on should PSV win their clash against CSKA, and given the Dutch side have a 100% record at home, compared to Moscow’s back-to-back defeats on the road, Eindhoven’s clash should be a home banker.

So only a win will do for Manchester United on a ground no side has picked up a result in, from a team without a victory on their European travels. There are a lot of factors conspiring against the Red Devils, and in truth it looks like their Champions League campaign is over. While picking up results in the Premier League in recent weeks, Van Gaal’s side look far form convincing, and supporters have long become discontent with the pedestrian playing style.

Despite the gulf in class on the teamsheets, PSV were comfortable against Manchester United at Old Trafford. They have also now taken four points from the Red Devils in the group, so if they are level on points after game week six, PSV’s superior head-to-head record will see them overtake United. Failure to qualify would mean a second competition chalked off the objectives, following October’s elimination from the Capital One Cup, and playing in the Europa League wouldn’t be any sort of solace for a team of United’s calibre.

How good is Manchester United-target Memphis Depay?

According to various reports, Manchester United are close to signing PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay this summer. The 21-year-old has been outstanding in the Dutch Eredivisie this season, helping his team win the league title. He scored 20 goals in 27 games, and has made it clear he wants to join a top side ahead of next season.

“We have had a telephone call from (Man Utd) about him. But no talks have been held yet. There are several top clubs who have expressed an interest. He will be very expensive. It will be much higher than the (£14.5M) offer from Tottenham Hotspur,” said PSV technical director Marcel Brands.

Manchester United are considered as one of the favourites to secure his signature due to a number of factors. First, it is important to note that Depay worked with Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal during his time with the Netherlands. In addition, the likes of Robin Van Persie, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are perhaps nearing the end of their United career due to a combination of factors, including their advanced age. On-loan striker Radamel Falcao, nearing the end of a disappointing spell at Old Trafford, is set to return to Monaco, so the Premier League giants are in need of reinforcements.

It is somewhat surprising that Depay seems to be getting the attention now despite an outstanding breakthrough season in 2013/14 – scoring 12 goals & making 7 assists in 32 games. He has been setting the division alight for two years, yet has only begun to garner attention in recent weeks. Deepay is destined to leave according to his manager Phillip Cocu, who said: “The chance is really good… But I do hope we’ll be able to keep the rest of the team.”

Depay is certainly ready for a big-money move. He is full of confidence in his ability, and has been consistent over the entire campaign. During a rather impressive season, Deepay has provided moments of individual brilliance, and the 21-year-old has made over 100 successful dribbles, while creating 56 chances.

He is sometimes guilty of being wasteful in possession, however, with 65 of his shots being off-target, as well as being dispossessed 62 times when in control of the ball. Depay is a talented player, but certainly needs to work harder as well as get better guidance in order to reach his best potential. Van Gaal could well be the man to guide him in the coming years, and United are known to be willing to pay whatever it takes to land their man.

Could Memphis Depay be a hit at Old Trafford?