Internationally-renowned Dutch club AFC Ajax will arrive in the Rose City on May 25 riding a high following its capture on Sunday of the Eredivisie league title with a 3-1 victory over second-place FC Twente.
The triumph over FC Twente gave Ajax its 30th title and also avenged a 3-2 loss on May 8 to FC Twente in the KNVB Cup (the country’s domestic cup).
“We have fought hard for this success. It is wonderful that our football philosophy has quickly led to success,” Ajax head coach Frank de Boer said in Dutch to reporters after the match. “For our fans, this is a better gift than for myself. They have had to wait so long on that 30th league title.”
Attacking midfielder Siem De Jong, a 22-year-old Netherlands international, notched a brace in the win to help Ajax reclaim the league title for the first time since 2004.
After De Jong opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a clinical volley following a perfectly placed cross by Gregory Van der Wiel, an unfortunate own goal by FC Twente’s Denny Landzaat put Ajax ahead 2-0 in the first minute of the second half. Shortly following the gaffe, Theo Janssen pulled one back for FC Twente in the 48th minute, but De Jong sealed the much-overdue championship after latching onto a well-placed through ball to finish off FC Twente 12 minutes from full time.
FC Twente, winners of last season’s Eredivisie, suffered a late-season hiccup as it earned just 8 points in the final five matches (two wins, two draws, one loss). Ajax leapfrogged FC Twente in the title-deciding match on Sunday while PSV Eindhoven, the team many thought could hold on for the league title, suffered a similar late-season collapse and fell to third place.
The first-place finish means Ajax, which won its final six league matches, earns a spot to the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League group stage. Ajax failed to qualify for this year’s edition, instead reaching the Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League before being knocked out by Russian side Spartak Moscow.
The historic title came with a bit of Sergio Ramos-style embarrassment as goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg had the trophy knocked out of his hands by some tram wires while he lifted it over his head on top of the Ajax team bus.
The trophy, more of a plate design instead of our image of a traditional multi-tiered trophy, crashed to the ground and was struck by another bus. According to reports, the plate suffered a large dent, but Ajax chose not to repair it, opting instead to view it as a symbol of the team’s turbulent season.
Mounir El Hamdaoui, a 26-year-old Dutch-born, Moroccan international, led Ajax with 13 league goals this season. El Hamdaoui notched 18 goals in all competitions. De Jong came in second with 12 league goals for the champions (15 in all competitions).
The Timbers welcome the recently-crowned Dutch champions to JELD-WEN Field on May 25 for an international friendly. Ajax begins their offseason schedule on May 22 with a match against D.C. United.