Ajax have managed to win their first Eredivisie match since August, narrowly beating FC Volendam at the Johan Cruyff Arena. Having endured their worst-ever start to a league campaign since professional football began in the Netherlands, Ajax were searching for a victory on Thursday night to help haul them out of the relegation zone.
John Van ‘t Schip was in the Ajax dugout, overseeing his first match as manager of the Amsterdam club, following the sacking of Maurice Steijn. The Dutchman shocked Ajax supporters by handing 20-year-old Ar’jany Martha his first team debut. It’s fair to say that the youngster experienced a successful first start. Martha became the first Ajax player to complete five dribbles on his Eredivisie debut since Justin Kluivert in January 2017.
The first 45 minutes summed up Ajax’s season so far – the hosts simply couldn’t find the back of the net. Having registered 16 goal attempts and dominated possession, the players headed back into the changing room with the scoreline stuck at 0-0. Twelve minutes into the second half, Ajax were able to open the scoring. A super strike from Steven Bergwijn cannoned into the back of the net. The hosts continued to dominate.
Volendam, who also find themselves in the relegation zone, were suddenly gifted a huge chance in the second half. Robert Muhren was one-on-one with Diant Ramaj, but somehow the German goalkeeper was able to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
The chances kept coming for Ajax and eventually, in the 89th minute, it was Chuba Akpom who found the back of the net. The Englishman scored his first Ajax goal since joining from Middlesbrough in the summer. Having experienced a tough start to life in the Dutch capital, the former Arsenal man will be incredibly relieved to have opened his account.
The victory has moved Ajax out of the relegation zone and into 15th place. There’s still plenty of work for the Amsterdammers to do, but this is definitely progress. As for Volendam, they remain second bottom in the table having picked up just seven points from their opening ten matches. Next up, they face NEC Nijmegen on Sunday. Ajax play Heerenveen this weekend in another home clash.