It’s best not to upset Dutch goalkeeping legend, Edwin Van Der Sar. Unfortunately the Ajax fans who attended last weekend’s Dutch Cup final hadn’t heard this warning and felt his wrath in what would turn out to be a disappointing and frustrating day for Ajax. The current Eredivisie leaders went into the match against underdogs PEC Zwolle as clear favourites and should have brushed aside their league rivals with ease but instead found themselves on the wrong end of a hiding. Not the way to end what looks to be yet another successful season for Frank De Boer’s men, with the Dutch title mathematically already theirs.
The atmosphere inside the Stadion Feijenoord was electric before the kick off, with PEC’s fans savoring what was their first final in nearly 40 years. But soon the mood changed and as the game kicked off, smoke filled the air as a storm of fireworks were thrown onto the pitch, temporarily halting the game. The fireworks had been thrown by the Ajax fans and took several minutes to clear before the game could proceed. As the game resumed, Ajax raced up the pitch and into a 1-0 lead thanks to a wonderful strike from the edge of the area by right back Ricardo van Rhijn. Celebrations erupted throughout the stadium but it wasn’t long before problems arose again with a further haul of fireworks tossed onto the pitch. The referee, using sound judgment pulled the players off the pitch, once again pausing the game. This was the straw that broke the camels back for Van der Sar who marched up to the Ajax fans, microphone in hand and proceeded to shout at them to “stop their sh@t”. Who knew that a man historically known as composed and at peace could hold such fury. Van Der Sar got his wish and the fans heeded his warning allowing the game to resume.
However for Ajax and its fans, it may have been best for it not to. PEC Zwolle reemerged as a different team, riled up and ready to go immediately pegging back Ajax with a fantastically worked goal that took a lucky deflection to make its way past the scrambling Kenneth Vermeer in the Ajax goal. Things went from bad to worse four minutes later as Zwolle broke again, with New Zealand teenager Ryan Thomas picking up his second of the game. Before Ajax could catch their breath, PEC hit another two goals through striker Guyon Fernandez giving them a 4-1 lead going into the break. During the half time interval, Frank De Boer ran the riot act on his shell-shocked team, encouraging them to get back out there and show their fans the passion needed to turn the game around. Unfortunately the damage was already done and as the fifth goal went in for PEC five minutes after the restart, the game was lost and PEC were on route to their first ever major trophy. For the PEC fans, it will be a day that they always remember but for the entire Ajax organization, it will be a day that they want to forget. De Boer will switch his focus onto the Eredivisie title now that the cup is gone but he will be looking back wondering if the actions of a few had any effect on the outcome of the game, either directly or indirectly. The damage to the playing surface and the advertising boarding around the pitch from the fireworks will be temporary but the overall damage from this defeat will only be felt at the end of this season when the Ajax board reviews how the team has performed over the campaign.
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