PSV 2-3 Ajax: Three in a row looks likely as Advocaat prepares to say goodbye
‘At 1-2, they were ready for the slaughter’, said Ajax boss Frank de Boer. Strong words, but he couldn’t be more right. In a highly anticipated encounter, PSV never showed why they had title credentials. Meanwhile, a sloppy Ajax-side made the most of a weekend in which most things went their way. The game in the Philips-stadion ended in a 2-3 victory for the visiting side and sees Ajax move five points clear of their nearest rivals.
After Vitesse gave away a 0-3 lead in Kerkrade to Roda JC (3-3) and Feyenoord failed to beat RKC in Waalwijk (1-1), it was up to Ajax and PSV to seize on their rivals’ mistakes. Looking at both line-ups, there was plenty of talent on the field, with midfielders Christian Eriksen (Ajax) and Kevin Strootman (PSV) the eye-catching talents. Both teams started out in hesitant fashion, with Ajax trying to contain possession and PSV seemingly without a real plan to attack their main rivals. The first 20 minutes were largely uneventful with both teams determined not to give anything away.
The game sprung into life when playmaker Eriksen popped up on the right inside the PSV-half looking for Viktor Fischer. The 19-year old winger couldn’t connect with the pass, but Mark van Bommel slid in, accidentally delivering the ball into the feet of Icelandic striker Sigthorsson, who didn’t hesitate and shot past a helpless Boy Waterman to make it 0-1 after 33 minutes. PSV looked apathetic and although they tried to press Ajax a bit, nothing was coming from it. It was counter-attacking Ajax providing most threat. A run by Viktor Fischer saw Ajax calling for a penalty, as he went down in the box after a slight push by Mark Van Bommel, but referee Kuipers decided to do nothing and Fischer was booked for dissent. It was to be the only yellow of the game, testament to it not being such a feisty game as was expected.
Only a few minutes later, another Dane grabbed his spot in the limelight, but this time in a negative way. Eriksen was hesitant in possession and lost the ball to Kevin Strootman who, after a one-two with Jeremain Lens, was through on goal. The midfielder and reputed Manchester United target was unselfish in allowing his teammate to score. A setback for the Amsterdammers, who until then had nothing to fear from their opponents.
PSV looked sharper at the start of the second half but instead of putting real pressure on Ajax, they were trailing within ten minutes. After a chip from Blind, Eriksen found himself in free space, this time on the left-hand side and after coming into the penalty-box, he surprised both defenders and goalkeeper with a fierce low drive into the bottom left corner, finding redemption for his earlier error. 1-2 after 52 minutes played. PSV again looked shellshocked. As I hinted at before, Ajax were in control and should’ve looked to punish the PSV-side, ensuring that they wouldn’t play any role in the title race whatsoever.
Instead, PSV were allowed to push forward again and even though it was hardly done with conviction, it was enough to make Ajax insecure in defence again. A free kick from Mertens hitting the post with, for the rebound, – again- Lens popping up meant the score became 2-2 in the 69th minute. PSV had hardly done a thing right and Ajax were dominating play, but goals are what count and it left the two in balance.
In the end, the game got the winner it deserved. And it was decided by two substitutions. For PSV, Erik Pieters came on at left back, replacing Willems, while at the other end, Boerrigter replaced Poulsen. Quite a bold move by Frank de Boer, as he was really pushing for the win, replacing a defensive midfielder with a winger. Following a long ball forward into PSV territory, a race between Pieters and Boerrigter saw the latter shrug off his opponent and with PSV-goalkeeper Boy Waterman rashly coming out (in typical fashion it has to be said), it was an easy finish for Boerrigter as he passed the ball into the empty net. With 13 minutes to go, Ajax tipped the balance in their favour again.
PSV were unable to recover and the game ended in tame fashion. Ajax are now comfortable league leaders (5 points clear) and PSV have a fight for second place ahead, as they trail Vitesse by one point while being equal with Feyenoord. Furthermore, PSV have the hardest fixture list of all and with Advocaat saying he’d only stay on if PSV would become champions, it’s difficult to see The Little General managing PSV next season. Instead, the new guard (Philip Cocu) will be looking to do battle with his former Barcelona team mate Frank De Boer. So strong in the spring, having lost just one league game in March, April or May under the former defender, only a fool would bet against Ajax making it three in a row.