Ajax romped to a 5-1 victory over SC Heerenveen in the Dutch top flight on Sunday afternoon, ahead of the visit of Liverpool in the Champions League group stage.
Ajax 5-1 SC Heerenveen
Eredivisie, Amsterdam ArenA
October 18, 2020
Goals: Tadic 4′ pen 28′, Kudus 35′, Klaasen pen 72′, Antony 87′; Veerman 66′
The Reds head to Amsterdam next week for their first game of Group D, away to the Eredivisie champions, Ajax.
Erik ten Hag’s side have enjoyed a strong start to the new campaign, and this continued on Sunday when they hosted Heerenveen.
With five changes made from the 1-0 defeat to Groningen before the international break, in came former Liverpool target Perr Schuurs along with Davy Klaasen, Mohammed Kudus, David Neres and Lassina Traore.
It was the captain, Dusan Tadic, who got Ajax off the mark in the fourth minute, cutting onto his right in the penalty area and firing into the far corner, with some slack marking from the Heerenveen back line.
Tadic had doubled the lead before the half-hour, with the Serbian’s cross striking the arm of Sherel Floranus, and after a three-minute break for a VAR check, he stepped up to convert the penalty.
With Heerenveen’s defence floundering, Kudus was able to swivel and fire a low shot through a throng and into the back of the net before half-time, with Ajax well on their way to victory.
The visitors did strike back after the break, with Henk Veerman converting well on the counter, but the three-goal lead was restored within six minutes.
This time, the scorer was ex-Everton midfielder Klaasen, when another lengthy VAR check adjudged Traore to have been hauled down in the box, allowing the No. 6 to step up and score.
Ajax’s rout was rubberstamped late on, with substitute Antony peeling away from Heerenveen’s high line and firing past Erwin Mulder, for a rather routine win for the Dutch giants.
Ten Hag set his side up in a 4-2-3-1, with Klaasen sitting alongside Ryan Gravenberch and a three-man unit of Tadic, Kudus and Neres supporting Traore in attack, which is a system used throughout the campaign so far.
It is likely to remain that way when Liverpool arrive at the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday night, and the way Heerenveen were able to exploit a lack of pace in centre-back Daley Blind for Veerman’s strike could point to the Reds’ way to victory.
Despite Ajax’s quality, the Reds should be expected to dominate possession if they are on their game, but likely without Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago, it could be that a return to old ways proves the best route to goal.
Relying on the speed of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, along with the overlapping runs of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, may prove devastating in Amsterdam.
Ajax: Onana; Mazraoui (Klaiber 61′), Schuurs, Blind (Martinez 82′), Tagliafico; Gravenberch, Klaasen; Neres (Promes 80′), Kudus, Tadic (Antony 62′); Traore (Huntelaar 82′)
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Scherpen, Alvarez, Ekkelenkamp