Ajax Respond to Europa League Exit by Closing In on Eredivisie Title

Liam NewmanContributor IMarch 3, 2014

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 6:  Joel Veltman of AFC Ajax in action during the UEFA Champion League group stage match between AFC Ajax and Celtic FC held on November 6, 2013 at the Amsterdam ArenA in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Anoek de Groot/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Less than 72 hours after crashing out of Europe under disastrous circumstances, Frank de Boer's Ajax dug deep to come from behind to win 2-1 at Feyenoord—taking a giant leap towards the Eredivisie title.

Sunday's victory at De Kuip all but ends Feyenoord's title hopes as the Amsterdam giants increased their lead over Ronald Koeman's side to 12 points. The defeat now also leaves the Rotterdam club's hopes of Champions League qualification hanging by a thread as they lost further ground on rivals FC Twente and Vitesse.

Whilst Michel Jansen's men drew 1-1 at Utrecht, Vitesse Arnhem recorded a 3-0 win over bottom club Roda JC to join Twente on 49 points. Meanwhile, Feyenoord stay on 45 and must avoid any further blunders if they are going to secure the runners-up place.

As per Joe Wright of Goal.com, current manager Ronald Koeman has already confirmed his departure from De Kuip this summer but that doesn't alter the fact he'll be upset by the loss to Ajax.

Champions League qualification would have been the perfect parting gift to the club he joined in 2011 but that now looks an extremely tough ask of the Rotterdam club, who also face stiff competition from a PSV side who closed the gap to a single point following their fifth win on the spin against the Go Ahead Eagles.

Earlier on Monday, Feyenoord announced Fred Rutten as Koeman's successor with the 51-year-old set to take charge on July 1.

As for Ajax, the win sees them increase their lead at the Eredivisie summit to eight points thanks to Twente's failure in Utrecht. De Boer will be pleased with the weekend's results but perhaps more satisfying, particularly in the aftermath of Thursday's loss in Salzburg, was the manner in which they claimed the victory.

Having fallen behind to Graziano Pelle's 20th league strike of the season after half an hour, Ajax looked to be heading for a second away defeat in four days. However, a Kolbeinn Sigthorsson equaliser on the stroke of half-time offered the league leaders renewed hope and was unquestionably the most important moment in a thrilling battle.

Ajax completed the turnaround with 18 minutes remaining, courtesy of Joel Veltman's close range effort following some indecisive set-piece defending from the home side. It was the Ajax stopper's first goal of the season and secured a vital three points against one of their fiercest rivals.

The win won't erase the embarrassment of that Europa league hammering but it does at least offer Ajax some redemption and puts them right on track to claim an unequalled 33rd Eredivisie title.

Only a self inflicted implosion of the greatest magnitude can now prevent the Amsterdam giants from retaining their crown for a fourth season and Frank de Boer looks set to enter the record books as the first manager in the club's illustrious history to achieve that feat.

Elsewhere, AZ followed up their midweek Europa League success by condemning RKC to a third consecutive defeat via a comfortable 4-0 scoreline; defender Nick Viergiver continuing his recent scoring spree by notching a third goal in four matches.