Ajax was released with a fright in the second round of the TOTO KNVB Cup on Wednesday. In a spectacular duel with FC Utrecht, the team from Amsterdam bent a backlog twice and won 5-4.
In the Johan Cruijff ArenA exactly one minute had been played when FC Utrecht brutally took the lead. Ajax player Nicolás Tagliafico lost the ball and it was Mimoun Mahi who pushed the ball under the debuting Ajax goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen: 0-1. Ajax’s answer took only seven minutes. A free kick from Dusan Tadic of about 25 meters sailed in.
Just before half time, Zakaria Labyad gave Ajax the lead for the first time with a ticker from close range, but after half time FC Utrecht managed to find the net after more than one minute. Base debutant Devyne Rensch just handed the ball in and Mahi scored his second goal of the evening.
Again Ajax quickly recovered from that blow via a shot by Antony that changed direction, but Sander van de Streek quickly put the 3-3 on the scoreboard. Ajax proved vulnerable defensively and that resulted in Moussa Sylla’s 3-4, who benefited from a blunder by Scherpen. Labyad prevented an early elimination with the 4-4, after which captain Tadic Ajax shot to the next round one minute before time with a fabulous curl shot.
Ajax has reached the last sixteen of the cup tournament for the 24th season in a row. The Amsterdammers were stranded for the last time in the second round in 1996. Then Heracles Almelo was 0-1 too strong for the team of then trainer Louis van Gaal.
Zakaria Labyad shoots in the 2-1 for Ajax, but it does not stop there in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Ajax vulnerable defensively
Without Quincy Promes, who was imprisoned for two days due to possible involvement in a stabbing match, and with debutants Scherpen and Rensch, Ajax had a dramatic start in Amsterdam. Tagliafico handed the ball in to Mark van der Maarel after more than fifty seconds, who served the detached Mahi tailor-made: 0-1.
Ajax only reached its level at times and came out of nowhere to the same level. A free kick from Tadic of about 25 meters was changed by Van der Maarel, after which the ball plunged into the far corner of Maarten Paes: 1-1. Paes was injured not much later with a head injury after he got a move from Antony. The German Eric Oelschlägel replaced him.
Although FC Utrecht had the best chances, it was Ajax that took the lead for the first time just before half-time. Tagliafico broke through on the left and found Tadic, who passed the ball directly to Labyad. The attacker finished skillfully.
Ajax debutant Kjell Scherpen had to fish four times and initiated the fourth goal with a blunder. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Feast of goals after the break
After the break, both teams continued on the same footing and that resulted in a spectacular goal feast. FC Utrecht scored again after one minute via Mahi, who was tailor-made by Gyrano Kerk after the loss of the ball by seventeen-year-old Rensch.
Ajax’s answer took only seven minutes. Antony saw his shot diverted by Tommy St. Jago, leaving Oelschlägel without a chance: 3-2. Immediately after kick-off, Van de Streek brought the score back into balance. A corner kick fell at the midfielder’s feet and he finished coolly.
Scherpen led in the 3-4 with a blunder in the 71st minute. The debutant released a cross from the right flank and Sylla was able to work in from close range. Ajax flirted for a long time with an elimination, which was eventually averted by Labyad, who was the end station of a smooth attack. Tadic saved the best for last and shot Ajax in the last minute with a wonderful curl shot to the eighth finals.