On March 22, I started a trip around Europe with a visit to Amsterdam and a ticket to the Ajax ArenA to see the famous Dutch club side in action against strugglers ADO Den Haag.
It is no secret in the capital of canals and coffee-houses that Ajax are not enjoying a vintage season; after three consecutive Eredivisie titles Frank de Boer’s side find themselves several points adrift of PSV and the fans are not particularly pleased with the football on display.
A warm spring afternoon welcomes the supporters off the train to the doorstep of the stadium just outside of the city centre. There is a buzz about the air that their side should have enough quality to turn over the visitors.
The Heineken was flowing around the stadium and the pre-match meals were enjoyed as fans basked in the sun that shone on the famous stadium. In the large open space outside the ground there were kickabouts taking place and a slice of excitement as some watched league leaders PSV suffer a 2-1 defeat to third-placed Feyenoord.
The pre-match music and roar from the crowd as the players took to the field to warm up signalled that the supporters felt their side should come out on top and close the gap to rivals PSV.
That excitement quickly turned to frustration, as Ajax worked hard to carve out opportunities yet found themselves lacking composure with regards to their finishing. Side netting was struck and balls were blasted over the top, while the biggest cheers of the afternoon came from crunching tackles made by the Ajax midfielders and defence.
The first 45 minutes left much to be desired for the supporters who had seen many a great grace the red and white of Ajax, from Cruyff to Ibrahimovic. There is no real superstar within this current Ajax side, though the qualities of Klaassen and Schone gave Ajax an advantage over Den Haag who had countered well in the first half and could well have surprised their hosts with a couple of opportunities.
As half time came some boos rang around the ground, seemingly a part of modern day football not just in England. But the second half did not start much better with the frustrations piling onto the players and the crowd becoming more bemused by short corners and a lack of shots on target.
Sigh of relief
The crowd had become increasingly frustrated shortly before Davy Klaassen nudged in a header that took a slight deflection and fooled everyone before ending up in the back of the net. The goal, timed at 81 minutes, arrived at key time both in terms of the result and the morale of the fans.
The celebrations for the goal were very hard not to be caught up in and I was rather relieved for the fans, players and coaches that they had something to cheer about on a frustrating afternoon for all involved.
Despite a late throwing of the perennial kitchen sink from Den Haag, including three trips by their goalkeeper to the opposite box for a corner kick in a bid to become a hero, Ajax held on for three points and the Amsterdam ArenA breathed a heavy sigh of relief, as did I that the Ajax Experience had been a positive one.
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