A 2-0 win home against Ajax put Utrecht into the final of this year’s KNVB Cup competition, ending a disastrous week for the Amsterdammers and putting paid to their hopes of the triple.
Over a period of six days, Ajax have been ejected from European competition, lost their lead over AZ in the league and are now out of the cup, leading the Dutch press to talk of a serious crisis at the club.
‘It will be a major scandal if this side does not win a title this season,’ said Telegraaf reporter Mike Verweij. Injuries and the reintegration of players who have been out for a time, such as Hakim Ziyech, cannot be used as an excuse, he said.
The Volkskrant said in its analysis that the self-confident club which wowed Europe last season has simply ‘collapsed’. ‘Ajax have lost their way, their class, their way of working together, their belief,’ the paper said. ‘They have become a team to feel sorry for, which creates hardly any chances and rarely scores.’
The NRC was equally blunt. ‘At the moment, last season’s sons of gods,’ the NRC said, referring to one of the players’ many nicknames, ‘are simply dying men.’
Nevertheless, coach Erik ten Hag says he still feels supported. ‘And I witnessed team spirit up to the last moment,’ he told reporters after the Utrecht defeat.
Midfielder Donny van de Beek said it is difficult to determine what has gone wrong. ‘It is a bit of everything,’ he said. ‘A combination of different things.’
Looking forward to next weekend, when Ajax meet Heerenveen away in the league, Van de Beek said: ‘That is where we must now fully focus. The championship was our biggest target this season, and it still is.’
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