Zwolle, who had never previously lifted a major honour, were appearing in only their third-ever KNVB Cup final and were considered huge underdogs against an Ajax team who were widely tipped to lift the trophy for a record 19th time.
It took less than five minutes for this bizarre final to establish itself as one of the standout finals in history. After defender Ricardo van Rhijn’s sublime strike from distance had provided the Amsterdam giants with an early lead, the Ajax fans situated behind the goal peppered the pitch with flares and pyrotechnics.Their actions ultimately led to referee Bas Nijhuis calling a temporary halt to proceedings.
The delay, which was reported by B/R UK Staff, lasted for around half an hour and even saw Edwin van der Sar plead with the supporters to stop. Ajax are likely to be reprimanded for the actions of their fans.
Once the game restarted, Zwolle seized the initiative and equalised just minutes later through 19-year-old Ryan Thomas. The New Zealander then reacted quickly to a rebounded free-kick, which had cannoned off the post, to put the underdogs in front with his second after just 12 minutes.
Already this had turned into an extraordinary final.
Ten minutes later, the underdogs extended their lead through Guyon Fernandez, and when he headed a fourth on 32 minutes, the contest was effectively over. Defender Bram van Polen completed the rout five minutes after the interval, to give Ron Jan’s men an unbelievable 5-1 victory. They become the first team to score five goals in a final this century.
For a lot of fans, the crowd troubles will be the most memorable aspect of this final. However, that should not detract from Zwolle’s achievements. This was the club’s first appearance in a final since 1977, and they certainly stepped up at the plate when it mattered most.
The Blauwvingers could have easily crumbled after falling a goal behind so early in the contest, but they used the extended delay to steady themselves and it certainly worked to their advantage. It was a truly phenomenal turnaround and will not be forgotten in a hurry.
As a reward for their heroics, Zwolle have also qualified for next year’s Europa League. Meanwhile, Ajax can bounce back from this disappointment by securing a fourth consecutive Eredivisie title with victory in next week’s clash at Heracles.
This year's final will go down as one of the most spectacular in history, both on and off the pitch. Zwolle definitely deserve their place in the record books.
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