PSV wins KNVB Cup, defeating Ajax 2-1 after two quick second half goals
PSV showed grit and determination to win the KNVB Cup for the tenth time. The Eindhoven club fought back in a come-from-behind victory to defeat Ajax 2-1 during an exciting Cup final in front of a sold-out crowd at De Kuip in Rotterdam. Three days after the team’s battle against Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the Conference League, PSV’s two goals in the first five minutes of the second half proved to be decisive.
It’s the second prize of the season for PSV, which also won the Johan Cruijff Shield this season. The team, whose trainer is Roger Schmidt, is still competing with Ajax for the national title in the last five rounds of the Eredivisie. PSV has four fewer points than the Amsterdam leader, and a worse goal difference.
Ryan Gravenberch again won the spotlight, this time during the 23rd minute of the Cup final. The 19-year-old midfielder worked with Davy Klaassen to score in a controlled manner. It seemed to be a repeat of last year in the Cup final battle against Vitesse, when Gravenberch also opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. PSV put a great deal of energy into its match, three days after their tough duel with Leicester City, but the Eindhoven side ran into problems when the Ajax players avoided clashes. The ball was moved around easily, and Ajax created several opportunities
Brian Brobbey missed a great chance to make it 2-0 shortly after the opening goal. The 20-year-old striker was the surprising choice over Sébastien Haller, the top scorer in the Eredivisie who also produced eleven goals in the Champions League this season. Trainer Erik ten Hag was without the injured Antony on the right flank, and thought he could use the speedy Brobbey in his attacks. Just before half-time, Noussair Mazraoui seemed to score the second goal, but the video assist referee ruled that Dusan Tadic was offside.
Maarten Stekelenburg was the goalkeeper for Ajax, with André Onana reportedly injured for the fina. Ten Hag has not been satisfied with Onana’s in recent weeks. Stekelenburg saw little action before half-time, but the ball passed by the 39-year-old keeper twice in the first few minutes of the second half. First, a stunning header from Érick Gutiérrez brought PSV level after Ibrahim Sangaré had extended the play from a free kick with his head. Stekelenburg was then surprised by a long shot from Cody Gapko, which wound up being the game winning goal.
Klaassen then appeared to equalize for Ajax soon after the Eindhoven side scored their go-ahead strike, but the video referee intervened again. This time, Brian Brobbey was ruled offsides. Ten Hag decided to bring in Haller as an extra attacker after a Tadic shot struck the post. Mohamed Ihattaren was also allowed to fill in against his old club in the final phase, but PSV held firm. They were even close to making the final score 3-1 when substitute Yorbe Vertessen struck the post.
Will Ten Hag leave Ajax for Manchester United?
With only five matches left on the Eredivisie calendar this season Ajax fans fear the Cup final may be one of the last matches for Ten Hag. Ajax hopes he will stay, but is also planning for the trainer’s possible departure. Various media outlets have reported that Ten Hag has already reached an agreement with top English club Manchester United to begin working there after this season.
"It is normal that players and also trainers who are doing well are in the spotlight," Ajax technical manager Gerry Hamstra said to ESPN shortly before the Cup final. "The same goes for Erik, and it makes sense. He has done a fantastic job for a few years. We really hope he stays, but we are planning on two scenarios. If he does not stay, then we will be ready for the second scenario." In that case Ajax must line up a new trainer.
According to Hamstra, Ajax has offered a contract extension and not her enticements to the 52-year-old trainer, which expires in the summer of 2023. "We are doing everything we can to keep him on board. With contract extensions, and yes everything that goes with it, without going into further detail. We have been very busy with that," said the technical manager. "But Erik can ultimately determine his own future. He is old enough and wise enough for that. He is not gone yet, and he is focused on Ajax. We are doing that too."
Ten Hag has not commented on his future plans. In his own words, he is entirely focused on the end of the season, with Ajax still able to win the national title.
Fireworks thrown at police
Large groups of football supporters gathered outside De Kuip for the Cup final. Before the match started, fireworks were thrown from a PSV supporters’ bus at a police van. The mounted police then carried out several charges against the supporters.
Eventually, calm was restored. Loud cheers from supporters in their preferred team’s colors cheered loudly when the Ajax and PSV players arrived on team buses.
Police fearered a repeat of last December when serious disturbances took place at De Kuip during the Eredivisie match between Feyenoord and Ajax. Hundreds of people gathered at the Rotterdam stadium for the match. When the Ajax team bus arrived, rioters pelted the vehicle with objects, and many heavy fireworks were detonated. The explosives were also thrown at the officers present.
Reporting by ANP.