When darkness fell over super Sunday, on the last day of Super January, Ajax settled comfortably on the fast track to the title. Ajax also rigorously ended AZ’s series of seven league victories in a row against clubs from the traditional top-three.
January was promoted to SuperJanuary, in the language of marketers who spent a month with numerous top duels. When drawing up the balance, after Ajax’s 3-0 in Alkmaar, the situation is clear: PSV, Vitesse, Feyenoord and AZ lost a series of points. Ajax only allowed PSV a draw.
And so the position is now clear: Ajax sovereignly in the lead. Seven points ahead of PSV, eight on Vitesse, twelve on Feyenoord and thirteen on AZ, which kept pace in the aborted last season. No, the premier division has not been decided with fourteen more matches to go, but Ajax is well on its way to becoming its successor in 2019.
The highlight of the early evening in Alkmaar was the beautiful goal by Davy Klaassen, who successfully shadowed the Alkmaar playmaker Teun Koopmeiners and after an hour crowned his great game after a quick, direct counterattack, with passes given in one go. Daley Blind deep on Dusan Tadic, Tadic high in one go. The ball sailed over striker Sébastien Haller and Klaassen took the ball perfectly on the shoe, although the goalkeeping work of Marco Bizot was noticeable.
The goal says a lot about the Ajax of 2021, the club that spent 22.5 million euros in corona time on striker Haller, who plays an important role, but still looks a bit unwieldy and slow. Blind, Tadic, Klaassen. Men who have been brought back from abroad for a lot of money to make a difference, preferably also at an international level.
AZ missed such men on Sunday, coach Pascal Jansen also judged. The game of the home team seemed non-committal. The much-discussed talents Calvin Stengs, Myron Boadu and Owen Wijndal participated, a lot was said. They should take steps, certainly with the European Championship approaching, but drowned in the men’s game of the opponent. Typical was the 3-0, when Stengs bumped into Edson Alvarez in midfield and threw up the arms of surrender. Moments later, the ball was in the goal, with substitute David Neres as the finisher.
Ajax has saved up for such a high-quality selection, coach Erik ten Hag recently said cheerfully. Daley Blind spoke of the ‘power of the dressing room’. After last Thursday’s duel with Willem II, Ten Hag gave a talk about volatility, because Ajax then needed all the strength to win in the final phase, just like recently against FC Twente. He argued that volatility is a trump card everywhere in Europe. It’s the time of corona, bubbles and the packed schedule.
But Ajax can rotate and never fell through the lower limit in January, although trainer and players admitted that the game could be better and more dominant, while January was normally the month of survival. The defense looked different, due to injuries to Nicolas Tagliafico and Noussair Mazraoui.
Blind was once again old-fashioned left back, also to get more football on the wing. Lisandro Martinez is actually always good. He was central in the back with Perr Schuurs, who played excellent except for a single error. Talent Devyne Rensch could easily join as right back.
Alvarez was strong in midfield again, controlling so Klaassen could move one position forward. Alvarez and Martinez are sober breakers, professionals pur sang who win games for a trainer and don’t do crazy things. Once, in the first half, Alvarez was on the ground, trying to head anyway. Goalkeeper Bizot’s leg came terribly close.
Antony, the street soccer player from Sao Paulo, is sometimes extremely annoying and sometimes genius. He had already left Wijndal with a wonderful passing movement and scored after fifteen minutes, after one of those smooth attacks by Ajax. Via Blind and Haller, the ball went to Antony, who scored well.
AZ was much less than Ajax in terms of football and dominance, despite a few strong chances, headers from Albert Gudmundsson, saved by André Onana, a goalkeeper who is two classes better than Bizot.
Blindly concluding: ‘It was indeed a great January for us, but we don’t count ourselves rich. We just have to continue on this road. We can be even more dominant in our field game. But there is no team as dominant as we are. And we fight to the last second. We are keen on all facets of the game. ‘