Ten-man Ajax close gap on PSV to just two points
Eredivisie, Johan Cruijff Arena – Ajax 3 (Schwaab OG 21’, Tadic P 72', Neres 90+6') PSV 1 (De Jong 58’)
Ten-man Ajax emerged victorious in Sunday's absorbing 'De Topper' at the Johan Cruyff Arena, beating fierce rivals PSV 3-1 to close the gap on the Eredivisie leaders to just two points.
Erik ten Hag's second-placed side came into the game five points behind PSV and with only seven games remaining after this, knew they had to win to keep their title hopes alive.
Ajax - who are still fighting on three fronts this season, having progressed to the last eight of the Champions League and the KNVB Cup final - made a frantic start and were ahead after a sustained spell of pressure. In the 21st-minute, Hakim Ziyech's cross was unwittingly turned home by Daniel Schwaab in an unfortunate own-goal.
But in a dramatic couple of second-half minutes, the game was turned on its head. Noussair Mazraoui was sent off for a high-footed challenge on Angelino and from the resulting free-kick, the PSV full-back delivered a pin-point cross which captain Luuk De Jong converted with a bullet-header.
PSV piled on the pressure in search of a winner, but completely against the run of play Ajax were rewarded a penalty when Schwaab's day went from bad to worse for a foul on David Neres in the box. The excellent Dusan Tadic converted from the spot for his 20th goal of the season.
Ajax had to withstand huge pressure as PSV battled for another equaliser, but Neres wrapped the points up with a stoppage-time goal on the counter-attack.
Brilliant Ajax close the gap. This was a real 'six-pointer' in a memorable Dutch title challenge, with PSV coming into the game with a five-point lead. But this young and hugely talented Ajax excelled under pressure once more, earning the victory in another crucical game to open the title race right up, even with just 10 men. There are seven games league games left and on paper Ajax have the kindest run-in. However, while ten Hag's side are still challenging on three fronts and have a congested fixture list to deal with - including a two legged affair with Juventus - PSV's only priority is the Eredivisie. Who will clinch the title?
MAN OF THE MATCH
Frenkie De Jong (Ajax) - Pulling the strings in another energetic midfield display, the 21-year-old rarely gave the ball away. When Mazraoui was sent off, Ajax needed cool heads and the maturing De Jong led by example.
Ajax: Onana 7, De Ligt 7, Van de Beek 7, Nere 8s, Tadic 8, Mazraoui 6, Blind 7, Schone 6, De Jong 8, Ziyech 7, Tagliafico 7. Subs: Kristensen N/A, Magallan N/A.
PSV: Zoet 7, Dumfries 6, Schwaab 5, Viergever 6, Angelino 7, Rosario 7, Hendrix 6, Sadilek 6, Lozano 6, De Jong 7, Bergwijn 5. Subs: Malen 5, Gakpo N/A, Sainsbury 5.
21' - GOAL! Ajax 1-0 PSV: The hosts have their deserved lead! De Jong switches the ball to Ziyech on the right and he has all of the time in the world to stand up a cross to the far post. PSV's goalkeeper Zoet comes rushing off his line and Schwaab unwittingly puts it into his own net in an unfortunate own goal!
54' - RED CARD! Mazraoui is fortunate not to be shown a straight red. He catches Angelino with a high foot to the face and he's nowhere near the ball. Wait, the referee is checking VAR... will he overturn his decision? Yes, the young Ajax full-back has been sent for an early bath!
58' - GOAL! Ajax 1-1 PSV: And from the resulting free-kick, PSV level the scores! Talk about drama! The injured player, Angelino, whips a delightful cross into the box and De Jong rises highest and bags the equaliser with a bullet-header!
72' - GOAL! Ajax 2-1 PSV: Cool as you like, Tadic sticks his penalty in the corner of the net, sending the PSV goalkeeper the wrong way, and 10-man Ajax are leading once more in this absorbing contest! It's his 20th league goal of the season.
90'+6 - GOAL! Ajax 3-1 PSV: Neres wraps the points up in style with a 96th-minute goal! The Brazilian has been excellent today and now he has a goal to cap a fine performance!