Ajax have unofficially opened the new year with a comfortable victory over Belgian side KAS Eupen. Ajax was represented by a group of youngsters and bench players, but they experienced little resistance from their opponents, who currently find themselves 13th in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League. Siem de Jong and Lassina Traoré scored for Ajax in Al Wakrah, Qatar. Ajax 2 – 0 KAS Eupen.
After five days of intense training under the warm sun of the Middle East, Ajax have played their first of two friendly fixtures. They were originally scheduled to line up against Galatasaray, but the Turkish side canceled last-minute. KAS Eupen took their place instead. Erik ten Hag invited a grand total of 31 players along to Qatar, so he could afford to only use reserve players on Thursday afternoon. Ajax will likely bring out the big guns on Saturday when they face off against Belgian champions Club Brugge.
Ajax was dominating the field of the nigh-empty A Janoub Stadium in the first half of the match. Naci Ünüvar, the teenage playmaker, only needed five minutes to create danger in front of the goal. His shot inched just past its target after captain Siem de Jong played him through the defense. Just a little while later, Lassina Traoré managed to hit both posts without scoring.
The liberating goal came in the 20th minute. Carel Eiting deserves a lot of credit for the pass he sent with the outside of the foot to split the KAS defense and to find Siem de Jong. The veteran striker never looked like missing, and he easily beat the goalkeeper. Lassina Traoré doubled the scoreline not much later. He found the back of the net with a powerful header from a corner kick. It was Eiting’s second assist of the day and Traoré’s second goal in the last two matches of Ajax. He used his head to score against ADO in December as well.
When both teams headed to the dressing rooms after 45 minutes, the 2-0 scoreline made for a poor representation of the balance of play. Ajax should have rewarded themselves more often for the way they outclassed KAS Eupen, especially considering they were unable to do so in the second half of the game. KAS Eupen put out a brand new squad after half-time, while Ajax only used three substitutions over the course of the match. While Ajax visibly struggled more, they rarely got in trouble.
The second half brought no highlights worth mentioning, apart from the minor knee injury Noa Lang seemed to pick up at the very end of the match. It is yet to be determined how serious his situation is. Ajax will have two more days of training and team building before they meet Club Brugge on Saturday, 4 PM GMT.