The Barca of the North
Amsterdam FC Ajax 5 - 1 SC Heerenveen
They can’t be stopped.
The banner held by the F-Side supporters reads as much, and Ajax is doing nothing to disprove them. There was about one minute when Heerenveen looked to be making it a game, after immediately answering Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s opener with a Bas Dost strike. Toby Alderweireld and the Amsterdammers made sure that wasn’t the case though, going ahead immediately after. And the rest is history: They can’t be stopped.
Boerrigter - Sigthorsson - Sulejmani
Eriksen - Janssen (c) - De Jong
Anita - Blind - Alderweireld - Van der Wiel
Assaidi - Djuricic - Narsingh
Elm - Kums
El-Akchaoui - Kruiswijk (c) - Breuer - Schmidt
After a choppy opening sequence, Ajax started to put their foot on the gas. Derk Boerrigter was looking dangerous, with some nice cuts in the box in the 3rd minute. Sulejmani did well to draw a foul shortly after, and Theo Janssen had two near chances from dead balls within the space of a few minutes. The second, a direct low shot that forced and incredible save from Vandenbussche.
Daley Blind was moving the ball quite well out of the back, and is doing very well in space of Jan Vertonghen it seems. In the latter parts of the opening sequence, Sulejmani tested Vandenbussche from distance, and Eriksen’s volleyed connection sailed just high. Ajax was looking quite dangerous, but no goals just yet.
For Heereveen, Elm had a fantastic opportunity close to Vermeer’s goal, but he could do nothing but blast it over the cross-bar. A wasted chance. On 23’ Narsingh was in on goal with a great opportunity, but was blown off-side by the official.
Ajax was employing a high-press, giving De Jong, Sigthorsson, and Eriksen all good chances around the 30 minute mark. It seemed Anita had the ability to anticipate every pass out of Heerenveen’s back line as well.
After Van der Wiel did fantastically to keep in Daley Blind’s long ball, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson would get the opener at 38’. The ball was headed into the box by Boerrigter, and Breuer simply was outmuscled by the impressive young Icelander. Sigthorsson sent the shot hard off the ground, past Vandenbussche, into the net. Ajax 1 - 0 Heerenveen.
This is where it gets exciting.
In the same minute, Djuricic made some fantastic cuts, but couldn’t capitalize on the finish. However, just one minute later, a great buildup sequence from Heerenveen caught the Ajax back-line napping. Elm found himself with enough space on the right wing to put in a good low cross for Bas Dost. Dost made easy work of it, and Alderweireld uncharacteristically made no effort to mark him. A hiccup in an otherwise flawless performance from the Belgian. Ajax 1 - 1 Heerenveen.
I say flawless for the following reason: Just four short minutes after Dost’s equalizer, Alderweireld strode out of the back, approaching about 35 yards from goal. The high-press Heerenveen was using left a massive space open in the midfield for the centre-half to fill. He filled the space, then he filled Vandenbussche’s goal with an absolute rocket from 30+ yards out. Bullets have moved slower. Ajax 2 - 1 Heerenveen.
Just after, Narsingh, using his impressive pace, was very close to re-equalizing for the guests. What a game.
Heerenveen would claim the first chance of the second period, a Narsingh shot that sailed just wide. Narsingh and Aissadi were both proving to be dangerous wingers for the Amsterdammers to deal with.
Ajax would have chances too. Eriksen laid off a nice ball that Anita blasted just over the cross-bar. The versatile LB (LB for this game at least) was looking quite good.
At 51’ a great Boerrigter run, a better Eriksen feed, and an even better Boerrigter finish secured Ajax’s 3rd and the lead. Fantastic play between the two young stars. Boerrigter is certainly proving his importance quite early in the season, and with that strike he momentarily went into a 3-way tie with Alderweireld and Sulejmani for Ajax’s top-scorer!
After a near chance for Kums from a free-kick, some changes would be made. Sibon, the 37 year old, came on for Dost. Djuricic off for Svec, and from the Ajax bench, Thulani Serero replaced Eriksen, all at 59’.
Sulejmani mistakenly gave the ball away in Ajax’s box, which lead to a good scoring chance from a Kums’ ball. Vermeer’s goal remained un-entered though, the Dutchman having quite a good night, having been isolated by his defense on Heerenveen’s only score.
After captain Theo Janssen got a weak yellow card (the weakness coming from how lightly Assaidi went to the ground), Enoh would replace Sigthorsson on 69’, lasting just a bit longer than he did last week vs. De Graafschap. On 73’ Martinus would replace the dangerous Narsingh for SC Heerenveen. The game at this point looked quite out of reach though.
This condition would only worsen, to the joy of Ajax supporters everywhere, when Sulejmani capitalized on bad defense and his own good dribbling skills to get through the entire Heerenveen defense and blast home his team-leading 3rd goal of the season, Ajax’s 4th of the day. Ajax 4 - 1 Heerenveen on the 75’ mark.
Ebecilio came on for Derk Boerrigter, the ESPN announcers commenting on what a luxury it is to be able to bring as dangerous a player as Lorenzo Ebecilio in off your bench.
It appeared 4 - 1 score-lines might become a thing for De Godenzonen, but at 93’ Gregory Van der Wiel scored his first goal in a calendar year, volleying in a ball that Serero put over to Ebecilio, who popped it back into Van der Wiel’s range. He appeared to have sliced the shot, but the curse became a gift as it was better to place it into the side netting than into Vandenbussche’s waiting hands anyhow. Van der Wiel looked quite pleased to have scored, not having a league goal since scoring against Vitesse last August. Final score, Ajax 5 - 1 Heerenveen. Its always nice also when the substitutes contribute to the overall effort. Serero and Ebecilio were the freshest legs on the field and their effort and positioning on the goal demonstrated just that. We’ve all seen what Ebecilio can do, but its nice to see Serero’s skills and work rate now too.
A special performance no doubt. They can’t be stopped. The abridged highlights can be found here.
AfcA Player of the Weekend: Toby Alderweireld - The Belgian normally has the help of compatriot Jan Vertonghen, and formerly Maarten Stekelenberg too, but without his more-experienced centre-half buddy and former ‘keeper, Alderweireld is managing quite well, organizing the Ajax back-line, making impressive stops, and even scoring goals for the Amsterdammers. Honorable mentions include Sigthorsson, Boerrigter, Eriksen, Anita, and pretty much the entire squad.
Notes: I quite like the phrase “The Barca of the North,” I think I will use it with more regularity. You heard it here first … Ajax has won 9 games in a row at home, scoring 2+ goals in every contest … Rodney Sneijder may not have touched the pitch, but he did get an opportunity to grace Frank de Boer’s bench … Ajax purchases Miralem Sulejmani from SC Heerenveen in 2008 with an Eredivisie record transfer of 16.25 million euro, breaking the record the two clubs previously set when Ajax purchased Klaas-Jan Huntelaar … The ESPN commentator said it perfectly, declaring “Siem de Jong epitomizes the flexibility of Ajax”. I couldn’t agree more.