Ajax draws against Utrecht; Eredivisie title barely in sight this weekend
Ajax drew against Utrecht (1-1) in an Eredivisie match on Thursday evening, making it far more difficult for the Amsterdam club to secure the league title this weekend. For that to happen, Ajax now needs all three points in a victory against AZ on Sunday, which will be the 30th match day of the 34-game season. Ajax will also need PSV Eindhoven to lose against FC Groningen on Saturday if it is to secure the title this early in the season.
The match against Utrecht was supposed to take place in early February, but it was postponed due to extremely strong winds from storm Ciara.
Utrecht took the lead early in Thursday's match at the Johan Cruijff Arena. The visitor's Gyrano Kerk was brought down by Nicolás Tagliafico inside the box, and after a video review, Utrecht was awarded a penalty. Simon Gustafson capitalized on the chance from the spot in the 13th minute, putting the ball in the back of the net. Kerk had another chance a bit later and appeared to score, but the play was flagged for offsides.
Ajax had their chance to tie the match in the 55th minute when substitute Davy Klassen struck the ball home. The video assist referee determined the play was offside and the goal was disallowed, though the call was extremely close. Broadcast images suggested that the midfielder was onside.
The Amsterdam club eventually brought the match level in the 69th minute a Dusan Tadic cross reached Mexican midfielder Edson Álvarez.
The Ajax coach Erik ten Hag was not satisfied with the outcome and said both the VAR system and his players' weaker performance following last week’s Cup victory were to be blamed.
"The organization was not good and we had a bad attitude in the first half. In the second half, I saw good Ajax. Utrecht was no longer keeping up, we created many opportunities and we had a good field occupation. [Klaassen’s goal] seemed clear to me. It is a big mistake on the part of the VAR", he concluded.
Following the disappointing draw, Ajax has damaged its chances to take away the trophy on Sunday on the birthday of Johan Cruijff, when 7,500 fans will also be welcome in the ArenA as part of a Fieldlab test event. If that doesn't happen, the celebration may be more modest as Ajax is set to play a home game with FC Emmen next Sunday, presumably without fans.
After 29 of 34 matches, Ajax is in first place with 73 points, followed by PSV and AZ which each have 61. Vitesse has 56 points, and Feyenoord is in fifth with 54.