Kristopher Reid is on the road, reporting back to ISN on his experiences with the beautiful game in Europe.
European football is where star players are drafted; it is where the best South American players play alongside giant Dutch defenders; it is where legendary players and overpaid divas clash.
As I emerged from the subway system in Amsterdam, the sound of celebratory cheering echoed everywhere. The energy of these fans was beyond even a diehard Green Bay Packers fan; these people have a definitive passion for soccer. My lack of hearing after the game was enough evidence of their unfaltering devotion.
The match was between Ajax and FC Twente. The visiting Twente came out strong and held the ball for the first five minutes, but with no real scoring attempts. Ajax responded with some quick passing and a shot on target from star player Christian Eriksen. Twente rebutted with a crafty corner to Douglas, who missed a solid opportunity. Play continued in this fashion for much of the first half: lots of possession for Ajax and explosive counterattacks from Twente with neither side having success. At the one third mark of the game, Ajax retained 65% of total possession. Twente did not roll over and give up; a quick free kick from Twente resulted in a near header connection in front of goal in the 31st minute.
Two minutes later Nacer Chadli put a header on frame but the keeper was poised for the stop. Just before the end of the first half, Tobias Sana put a rocket on target. The shot was blocked by the Twente defense, earning the home side a late corner kick. Eriksen made a perfect pass to a wide open Niklas Moisander, who sliced the ball and missed a golden opportunity to score. In the 45th minute, Daley Blind was fouled hard by Dusan Tadic, who was then issued the first yellow card of the match. At the end of the half, both teams had yet to find the net.
At the start of the second half, Twente came out very strong and maintained possession early on. Twente had their only real scoring chance oft he match in the 55th, but Dutch star Christian Poulsen defended well. A minute later, Ajax put a shot on target, which was barely blocked by the keeper. The ball was then recovered by Ajax who shot yet again, and the Twente goalkeeper was there again for the save. Following the save, Ajax earned a corner, and then another. Surely it was their time to score, but the visitor’s defense held strong and cleared the ball.
Chadli, one of Twente’s key players, had a near goal in the 66th, but his header was not quick enough to get past the Ajax keeper. Ajax responded immediately, as Ryan Babel passed the ball to a patiently waiting Eriksen, who trapped the ball at the top of the goal box and smashed the ball into the corner of the goal. It was low and fast and nearly impossible for the keeper to react in time. Other than substitutions, free kicks, and a smart foul to stop a breakaway in the 86th minute (earning Beams a yellow card), play mimicked the first half. Not many chances, lots of free kicks and corners but no more goals.
Ajax’s top players, Babel, Sana, and Eriksen were in top form during the match. Sana has speed in open field making him nearly impossible to defend. However, this speed does not always work in his favor as all of his shot attempts were either over the bar or well wide of the net.
Ajax, the league champions from the previous season, played with control and dominated the visiting squad. The 1-0 victory for the home side added to an already exciting start to the Dutch Eredivisie season.
The atmosphere of the stadium was incredible and the energy and volume of the crowd surpassed even Century Link Field during playoffs. America’s soccer paradise in the Pacific Northwest is pale in comparison to this European soccer masterpiece.