Ajax back to winning ways against plucky PEC

League action resumes with a hard-fought victory in Zwolle

The second-half of the season began in positive fashion for Ajax, as they dispatched of 16th placed PEC Zwolle in a 3-1 victory at the MAC³PARK Stadion. It was a crucial victory to open up 2017 for the Amsterdammers, with title rivals Feyenoord and PSV having already picked up maximum points from their fixtures earlier in the weekend. It was, however, one which still left manager Peter Bosz demanding more from his side who remain 5 points off the summit of the Eredivisie.

The game will be remembered for reasons other than the result, though. The morning’s headlines will undoubtedly be dominated by the promising debut of Justin Kluivert, the 17-year-old son of former Netherlands striker, and Ajax-legend, Patrick.

The teenager entered the fray in the 39th minute, coming on for the injured Amin Younes with the game still goalless. Kluivert turned in a performance well beyond his years and once which his father would be almightily proud of. Attacking directly, taking on defenders with ease and looking at complete ease against an experienced Zwolle defence, the youngster showed just why he had been given the opportunity to prove his talents on the first-team stage by Bosz.

His debut performance summed up beautifully by the club’s official Twitter account- “Menacing and full of guts.”

It was Ziyech’s double which ultimately wrapped up the points for Ajax, who had given ‘de Blauwvingers’ a glimmer of hope in snatching an unlikely point, Nicolai Brock-Madsen pulling a goal back following Lasse Schone’s 54th minute penalty and Ziyech’s first of the afternoon just 60 seconds later.

It was a superb solo-effort from the Dutch-born Moroccan, who shockingly was not selected to represent his country at the on-going African Cup of Nations. Latching on to a lovely Veltman long-ball over the top of the Zwolle defence, Ziyech twisted and turned away from a defender in the penalty area, before expertly slotting home inside the far post.

That quick-fire double had lit up a contest which until that point, had severely lacked quality and intensity, perhaps to be expected in the first half of football after the winter break.

Brock-Madsen’s 72nd minute goal, the result of a carelessly mis-placed pass out of defence by Nick Viergever, threatened to kick-start a fightback from PEC. Their hopes were demolished just 8 minutes later though, as Ziyech scored once more to make it 3-1 and settle the tie.

A barnstorming run down the left from, starting from well within his own half, saw the 23 year-old close in on goal, before powering an effort beyond the despairing PEC keeper- and ex-Ajacied- Mickey Van der Hart. It earned Ziyech his first brace for Ajax in the Eredivisie, and his first since August 2016 (2 for Twente v Sparta Rotterdam.)

Despite the win, boss Peter Bosz felt his side were not at their best, and came away frustrated with aspects of the overall performance.

Speaking after the game, he said, “We didn’t play a good game. We lacked passion and weren’t aggressive. I failed at motivating the players. I thought it wasn’t too good. How we started the game and how we played the entire first half.”

“We know what we have to do. We have to catch the five points up on Feyenoord and we knew in advance that PEC had three players missing through suspension. So, we just had to start strong and grab the opponent by the throat, but we did not at all. We played badly, but the second half was an improvement.”

Bosz was, however, full of praise for headline-maker Kluivert.

“Justin was good. He showed good promise and created a number of good chances. Let’s take it slow with him. He’s only 17, but he definitely has talent and it was there for all to see.”

Next up for Bosz’s side is a tricky fixture away at FC Utrecht, who themselves got the new year off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Sparta Rotterdam. They sit 6th, in red-hot form having not lost any of their 10 matched since the defeat by Ajax in the reverse fixture. They will no doubt provide a stern test for the Godenzonen, who themselves will aim to close the gap on leaders Feyenoord and re-take control of the Eredivisie.

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