Today’s game against Groningen was a chance for players to step up for Ajax with Daley Blind heading for Manchester United, it was also a chance to bounce back from last weeks defeat to title rivals PSV. It wasn’t to be an average Ajax performance was rightly punished by Groningen and they made sure Ajax suffered two defeats in a row.
The game started slowly and the first bit of action came just before the ten minute mark, Lasse Schöne fired an effort from distance, however it didn’t test Sergio Padt and the keeper watched it go wide.
A few minutes later Ajax came close with the help of Groningen, Ricardo van Rhijn’s brilliant cross from the right saw Eric Botteghin head the ball towards his own goal, Padt was forced to make a good reaction save to stop the own goal. Anwar El Ghazi soon after cut inside from the right and after wriggling away from a challenge he was able to produce a low shot at goal, unfortunately for the youngster Padt was able to comfortably save.
Ajax should’ve tested Padt not long after El Ghazi’s effort, Kolbeinn Sigþórsson played the ball to Nick Viergever, the midfielder slipped a lovely pass through to El Gazhi and his little chipped cross saw Schöne slipping and this allowed Davy Klaassen to hit a shot on the turn but it’s blocked.
Groningen were having more of the ball but they were struggling to create enough chances to test Jasper Cillessen. Ajax were create the most chances between the two and they gave Groningen another warning when Schöne played a great ball through to Sigþórsson and the striker played the ball across goal, luckily for Groningen Johan Kappelhof was there to clear the danger as Klaassen was lurking at the back post.
As the game approached the 30 minute mark Groningen started to threaten more. The ball was played into Danny Hoesen who delightfully dummied the ball to allow it to roll to Jarchinio Antonia, his cross wasn’t good and Ajax easily dealt with it. Groningen continued to finish the half strongly, Yoell van Nieff was able to cut out Joël Veltman’s pass and after bursting forward he played the ball to Tjaronn Chery, despite having options up with him Chery went for goal and it wasn’t a great effort, Cillesen saved with ease. Cillesen soon after was forced to quickly rush off his line to clear the danger as Antonia was close to being one-on-one after a ball over the top.
Before the break Ajax had the chance to take the lead. Thulani Serero and Klaassen caused problems in the area, Groningen failed to clear as the ball bounced around, Klaassen finally managed to get the ball in space but Padt made himself big to deny the Ajax midfielder. Five minutes before the break Viergever tried an optimistic effort from distance and it almost paid off as it whistled just past the post. The goal kick was played to van Nieff and under pressure he could only play the ball against Klaassen, Sigþórsson beats the keeper to the ball, plays it back to Klaassen who pulls it back to El Ghazi and the youngster fired well over and there were plenty of options for Ajax.
Just before half time Schöne fouled Antonia out wide, the freekick was whipped in brilliantly and Cillessen had to come out to punch it away before Rasmus Lindgren could head in. Shortly after the ball was again whipped in from the right, this time by Antonia and van der Velden was inches away from getting contact on the cross.
Half Time: Groningen 0-0 Ajax.
The first bit of action in the second half came straight from kick off, Antonio’s cross was way off the mark but it almost crept in, the cross dipping just over Cillesen’s bar. Groningen continued their great start to the half and three minutes into the half they took the lead. van der Velden played the ball through to Chery, he played a great ball across goal and Groningen’s centre back Botteghin was there to tap in.
Groningen came close to doubling their lead, Maikel Kieftenbeld played the ball to Hoesen, who then played the ball through to Antonia, the cross from Antonia was directed towards goal by Chery and Cillessen had to make the save, Chery probably should’ve tested the Ajax keeper more.
Ajax’s El Ghazi came close, he ran inside and after some lovely skill he fired a shot just wide of Padt’s post.
With twenty minutes remaining Ajax didn’t look like scoring and Groningen looked threatening on the counter attack. Groningen allowed Ajax to have the ball but the champions failed to create many chances. They managed to force Padt into action when Klaassen was brought down in a dangerous position, the substitute Ricardo Kishna had a decent effort from the freekick and Padt flicked it over. As the game edge towards the final whistle Lerin Duarte’s cross was blocked, El Ghazi picked up the ball up in the box and after getting away from his marker he fired an effort over when he should’ve played the ball across goal.
A couple of minutes from time, van der Veldon played the ball down the line, the ball looked to be going out of play but Chery was able to brilliantly catch up with the ball and produce a perfect cross for Michael de Leeuw to head in making it 2-0 and confirming all three points for the home side.
Full Time: Groningen 2-0 Ajax.
Article for VAVEL.