Feyenoord 0-1 Ajax: The losers the real victors in De Klassieker
Outplayed and outclassed, it was another deplorable performance, hitting a new low in an already very poor start to the season. The pundits and the players themselves were honest about it. Brutally honest.
“This is the worst team they’ve had for years,” said Ronald de Boer.
“This was the worst game I’ve experienced here in four years,” said the team’s own goalkeeper.
In any match between Ajax and Feyenoord, performances tend to get blown out of proportion, but after the Amsterdam giants beat the Rotterdam side 1-0 away from home on Sunday, the criticisms were entirely justified. Incredibly, though, it wasn’t the hosts and losers of the first Klassieker of the season who were being crucified, it was the winners. Frank de Boer’s team had one thing going for them throughout the 90 minutes against their fierce rivals – luck. Ricardo van Rhijn’s fourth minute free-kick which flew over the wall and curled past a static Kenneth Vermeer was enough to make the difference between the two sides, however, Frank de Boer’s side were absolutely pelted by the Pride Zuid for the entire game before and after the magnificent strike. Jordy Clasie and Ruben Schaken had both seen efforts hit the bar moments before the Ajax defender beat his former team-mate, who should feel he could have done much better to keep the effort out.
From then on, though, the onslaught began.
Feyenoord put their opponents under immense pressure throughout, never allowing them to string any passes together. The reigning four-time Eredivisie champions simply couldn’t deal with it. After 11 minutes, defender Sven van Beek struck the bar – his side denied by the woodwork for a third time. Fred Rutten’s side hit shot after shot, going into double figures, yet Jasper Cillessen had not one save to make.
Loan signing Colin Khazim-Richards could be particularly disappointed. Despite his good first touch and movement, he passed up some glorious opportunities because of his poor finishing. One excellent piece of control set him up perfectly for a shot from the edge of the box, but it flew wide. Later, he brought down a magnificent long pass with a delectable first touch, controlling the ball, beating defender Niklas Moisander and teeing it up for a glorious opportunity all in one smooth touch. With just the simplest of finishes needed to put it into the net, he again knocked it past the post.
Feyenoord headed into the fixture winless in their last four league games, most recently suffering a 2-1 defeat to minnows Willem II which had been followed by Thursday’s Europa League loss in Sevilla. The team and coach Rutten were accused of lacking any fight or passion, but they put all those fears to rest with a determined and inspired display, but just couldn’t make the difference. In the second-half, Jean-Paul Boetius came close with a header knocked wide by Jasper Cillessen. It was his side’s 12th attempt on goal, their first on target.
Despite their increase in pressure, it seemed their profligacy was about to be punished as Ajax winger Ricardo Kishna charged towards Vermeer’s goal late in the game. With just the keeper to beat, though, he stumbled and let a glorious opportunity pass by. Reprieve for Feyenoord, finally a bit of luck. That scuppered opportunity seemed to give them reason to believe. With time left, they still had a chance. Entering stoppage time, Khazim-Richards and Elvis Manu saw a shot each blocked, then Boetius sent one wide. With two minutes left Mitchell te Vrede looked set to be the hero when he sent one shot past Cillessen, but it was cleared off the line. Another shot at glory fell for the striker who has three goals to his name so far this season, but the shot stopper tipped it over. Feyenoord could create one last chance with the resultant corner, but wasted it and the referee’s whistle brought an end to the game and misery to the Rotterdam faithful.
By the end of the game, Feyenoord had hit 18 shots, four of which were on target. Ajax, on the other hand, had five attempts, with just three on target. Ajax players knew how lucky they were.
“They were better and we were terrible,” Cillessen added.
Even coach Frank de Boer stuck the nails in “This is a stolen victory. Feyenoord were better in every respect.”
There was no two ways about it.
Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie was left in disbelief. “This is a mortal sin!” he told Fox Sports. “Look how many chances we created. This was such an important game for us. And then you get this…” It was at full-time Khazim-Richards realised just how much of a difference he could have made. “I take all responsibility. It was a big miss,” he said of the one-on-one with Cillessen. “Personally, I’m really pissed off, but I am proud of the team. Many of our players are young, but they have balls and character.”
The English-born Turkey international was right to be proud. Feyenoord, low in morale and at the lowest point since before Ronald Koeman was appointed coach, they rose above themselves and put the reigning champions under pressure. While the results have been worrying and many of the performances under par in recent weeks, more performances of that calibre will see them rack up the points. Feyenoord have so far hit more shots than anyone else in the league, yet their opening day win over ADO Den Haag remains their only one so far.
Khazim-Richards scored on his debut against Willem II, but it wasn’t enough to avoid defeat. Against Ajax, he had enough chances to level the score and even put his team ahead, but his performance was fruitful. His touch is good, his movement is sound, but he is yet to settle in properly and still looks rather unfit. The signs are positive and there remains hope that, if he can find the finishing touch, Rutten’s side will be able to start to see off more opponents and climb back up the table. With Clasie, Jens Toornstra and Karim-El Ahmadi, they have three very good midfielders capable of adding to the attacks as well as putting teams under pressure when the side are defending. The back four switch of Miquel Nelom to left-back while Terence Kongolo partnered Van Beek in the centre worked well, although they were not tested too intensely.
The worrying signs, though, were for the victors of the clash.
De Boer’s team have been in constant decline over the last four years because of the club’s selling nature and the youth academy products filled in well, but at the moment they are in grave danger of seeing their reign of dominance come to an end. No creativity, no pace in their attacks and remarkably tame and open defensively, they are weak in all areas. Thulani Serero is a midfielder with a lot of energy and pace, but there is no end product to his game. Davy Klaassen is in the mould of Siem de Jong in style, but the leadership is lacking, greatly, and there is no spark of genius which was usually provided by Christian Eriksen before his move to Tottenham Hotspur.
Ajax were able to compensate for it last year, but this year they have been found out by Groningen, PSV and Feyenoord. Luck and the opponent’s failings saw them through in De Kuip, but they were found out by the former two.
While Feyenoord can be sure they will soon start to get the results they deserve, Ajax must be worried that they will too.