The highlight of the afternoon may have taken place half an hour before kick-off, when the players of Ajax entered the field in the Johan Cruijff Arena. The broad grin with which they did that was the result of what they saw around them: 7,156 fans who had waited at least seven months for their return to the stadium and were therefore ecstatic when their team started to prepare them for the top match that was the unofficial league title.
That turned out, after Dusan Tadic had finished his warm-up with a smile and general manager Edwin van der Sar addressed the audience, not that easy. AZ created more danger in the first half alone than in the previous two mutual confrontations, when Ajax had little to fear from the competitor during the 0-1 (cup) and 0-3 in Alkmaar. In the first half, Teun Koopmeiners (again), Calvin Stengs, Bruno Martins Indi and Albert Gudmundsson missed good to great opportunities for the opening goal. The latter even went alone on Maarten Stekelenburg, but saw the star save with his knee.
For example, AZ made the most claim to a goal, although Ajax also had a number of good opportunities for that. For example, Sébastien Haller bounced early with his header after a cross from Tadic on Marco Bizot, which had flown out of his goal, Nicolás Tagliafico hit the ball incorrectly on a pass from Antony and saw Tadic also save the AZ keeper on his free kick. Edson Álvarez, who intervened strongly at the chance of Martins Indi, turned out to be less deadly on the other side.
For example, in the occasional wonderful football fight between the upcoming champion and competitor AZ (who hopes to steal a CL ticket a year ago, leader Ajax and number two PSV this season). Even after the break, the game waved back and forth, with Tagliafico and Gudmundsson getting two more chances to strike first. Where the Argentinian was prevented from scoring by Bizot, the Icelander forgot to walk in a good low cross from Myron Boadu.
The misses of the shadow striker cost AZ even more expensive after more than an hour. Tadic served Haller, but the striker who headed over just before, let the ball run – consciously or otherwise – for the caught-in Davy Klaassen. After he shoved his 26th opening goal in the service of Ajax, the ‘Champions’ echoed loudly from the still thinly strewn stands. In that position, the unthreatened leader can hardly even miss the national title in theory. First pursuer PSV, who defeated Groningen on Saturday, not only has to make up for twelve points in the last four rounds, but also a difference of 32 goals in the goal difference.
In the remainder Ajax failed to decide the top match. Klaassen and Neres, for example, did not get the ball in the goal and Brian Brobbey, another substitute, only went to Bizot without success on his first touch. That former Ajax player also prevented a striking header from Ryan Gravenberch. Declarer Klaassen turned out to be the only one who got the strong goalkeeper AZ goalie to his knees. In the final minute, Ajax’s top purchase also nodded the 2-0 and with that actually also the 35th national title. That is still unofficial, but in a week, when the reborn FC Emmen comes to visit, it must be definitively secured by the club that remained unbeaten after a defeat against FC Twente in December and won no fewer than 15 of the 19 premier league matches.