Ajax still in the title race after a difficult victory against NEC
Ajax has stayed in the trail of league leaders Feyenoord with a close win against NEC (1-0). The number 2 in the table played well in the first half but could not entertain the fans in the second half.
Ajax will visit sc Heerenveen next Sunday. Feyenoord plays FC Volendam at home a few hours later. There will be an incentive for Ajax not to let Feyenoord's gap grow more than three points, as they face each other in Amsterdam in two weeks.
Calvin Bassey returned to the lineup for Ajax. It was the defender's first start in a league match since the 26th of January. Manager Alfred Schreuder was fired shortly after that match.
In the last few weeks, John Heitinga, Schreuder's replacement, had Bassey come off the bench a lot. The Nigerian international is not the best player at Ajax, but he is solid and fast and is, therefore, able to anticipate when the opponent is trying to counter.
With Bassey at the centre of the defence and Edson Alvarez in midfield, Ajax did not give many opportunities away. NEC hardly got close to the Ajax goal. And Ajax did not create many chances in the first half. Steven Berghuis hit the crossbar, and the excellent performing Jasper Cillessen used his quick reflexes to stop Steven Bergwijn and Mohamed Kudus from scoring.
NEC conceded as many goals (22) as leaders Feyenoord in their first 23 matches. But the club from Nijmegen went behind after 52 minutes. Dusan Tadic found Kudus, who scored via his opponent Souffian El Karouani (1-0). Surprisingly Ajax did not attack for a second goal.
The manager, Heitinga, brought on Brian Brobbey and Kenneth Taylor for Bergwijn and Berghuis. Ajax did not play better after those substitutions. To the chagrin of many supporters who would have rather seen their favorite team go for a second goal, the home team decided to defend their slight lead.
Reporting by ANP