Ajax secures Dutch football championship for 36th time; PEC Zwolle relegated
Ajax has won the Dutch national football title for the 36th time. The Amsterdam club secured its third championship in a row at a festive Johan Cruijff ArenA with a 5-0 victory over sc Heerenveen. Already by halftime, the game was practically decided, with a tally of 3-0 on the scoreboard.
It was lively inside the stadium early on, a striking contrast to last year's championship match against FC Emmen when no spectators were welcome because of coronavirus restrictions. Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano played house music and Peter Beense sang sentimental Dutch songs. After an impressive moment of silence for the deceased former players, Henk Groot and Jody Lukoki, the home side’s football players took care of the match.
Ajax opened spritely and took the lead in the 19th minute. Noussair Mazraoui kept the ball just inside the boundary line, according to the match referee and the video assist referee. Via Davy Klaassen and Dusan Tadic, Nicolás Tagliafico was in a position to shoot. The popular left-back found the far corner of the goal, making the score 1-0.
Ajax quickly looked for a second goal and found it in the 33rd minute. Jurriën Timber dribbled into the penalty area, with impressive footwork from Sébastien Haller. That gave Steven Berghuis plenty of time to strike the target.
Berghuis celebrated his goal with great emotion. He was considered responsible for AZ's second goal in the 2-2 draw against Ajax last Sunday. The international player who came over from Feyenoord also had a role in the third goal of Wednesday evening’s match. Berghuis was awarded a penalty after Ibrahim Dresevic had knocked him down. Ajax captain Tadic awarded the penalty to Haller, who struck the ball for his 21st league goal. It was his first goal since March 20, when he scored against Feyenoord.
The Amsterdam club’s trainer, Erik ten Hag, will depart Ajax after winning three Dutch titles in a row, having signed a contract with Manchester United for next season. He made good on his pledge to focus on this season before departing for the English club, and gave departing players a chance to get one more moment in front of the Amsterdam crowd. Noussair Mazraoui, the right back, will almost certainly wear a Bayern Munich shirt in the next football season. Brian Brobbey was able to relieve top scorer Haller, and brought the score line to 4-0. Tadic and Klaassen were also allowed to exit the match early.
Most of the fans in the stadium showed enthusiasm throughout the match. They sung about the championship, held up cardboard championship dishes, and setoff red and white fireworks. Edson Álvarez's fifth goal was also celebrated exuberantly.
PSV takes second place
Eindhoven squad PSV finished in second place in the Eredivisie this season with a 3-2 victory at home against NEC on Wednesday. With the Ajax victory, the PSV players were eliminated from championship contention. As number two in the Eredivisie, PSV will enter the third preliminary round of the Champions League.
PSV took the lead after just under half an hour. Ritsu Doan surprised goalkeeper Mattijs Branderhorst with a shot from distance. The Japanese player had received the ball from Noni Madueke, who was once again allowed to play after many injury problems. Shortly later, Ibrahim Sangaré was also close to an Eindhoven goal, but he hit the post. Still, PSV ran pressed ahead before the break. Central defender Érick Gutiérrez shot the ball nicely into the top corner, also from a long distance.
After the resumption, NEC initially became a bit more menacing. Breakthrough player Ali Akman put pressure on Yvon Mvogo who had come out of his goal. Moments later, the Swiss goalkeeper even needed assistance from Gutiérrez on the goal line to prevent a goal from Rodrigo Guth.
But it was Eran Zahavi who pushed the score to 3-0. The departing Israeli player did that in his last home game for the Eindhoven team. He was set up by left back Philipp Max.
Mikkel Duelund then made it 3-1, after a pass from Bart van Rooij. The match became tense again with a successful penalty by Jonathan Okita.
PEC Zwolle relegation certain after 10 years
PEC Zwolle will disappear from the Eredivisie after ten years. The club from the Overijssel capital lost 2-0 to Sparta Rotterdam during the penultimate round of play, which made their relegation a certainty. PEC Zwolle was promoted in 2012 as champion of the Eerste Divisie to the highest level of national play, and two years later won both the KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruijff Shield.
PEC took just six points before the winter break this season. Led by Dick Schreuder, the successor of Art Langeler who stepped down in November, the team performed much better in the second half of the season. The Zwolle team took 21 points in 2022, but their stay in the Eredivisie came to an end at Het Kasteel.
Adil Auassar gave Sparta the lead after only three minutes of play. The captain tapped the ball in with the tip of his left shoe past keeper Kostas Lamprou following a free kick by Vito van Crooij. PEC had chances to equalize via Thomas van den Belt, whose shot hit the crossbar, as well as Pelle Clement and Gervane Kastaneer.
Instead, the second goal for Sparta came in the 24th minute on the other side of the field. Van Crooij tapped in a cross from Younes Namli. Both previously played for PEC.
Sparta held on to the lead in the second half. In three games led by new coach Maurice Steijn, the team from Rotterdam took seven points, possibly even avoiding the promotion and relegation play-offs.
Reporting by ANP.