FC Twente claimed the victory in the Dutch Cup final after an overtime header by Marc Janko. In a final that satisfied to all demands and expectations, FC Twente’s players, fans and manager were the ones that smiled after 120 minutes.

The 93th KNVB Cup final was one to remember. It was a clash between the best sides in the Eredivisie. It was a clash between two teams who tried to play positive and attacking football. Despite the importance of next week’s fixture which will decide the league title, both teams didn’t hold back.Twente were the stronger team in the opening minutes of the game. Ajax struggled playing the ball forward and find the free man due to FC Twente’s marking  of Ajax’s midfielders Eriksen, De Zeeuw and Anita. Kenneth Vermeer had often no other option left than hoisting the ball forward. Twente’s strong aerial qualities made sure they were dominating in possession. Though it was Ajax who opened the score after a ‘no-nonsense’ strike of Demy de Zeeuw at the edge of the box. Nicolai Boilesen made one of his runs from deep, played the ball to Siem de Jong who found De Zeeuw. Ajax’s second goal came from an equal situation. Another run from deep from the young Dane which resulted in the 19 year old Lorenzo Ebecilio doubling the score with a deflected shot from outside the box. 2-0. A 2-0 lead looks comfortable but Twente scored just before the half time whistle. A simple one-two pass between Luuk de Jong and goalscorer Wout Brama plus poor marking and defending from Ajax brought FC Twente back in the game.

The goal just before half time had done good to Twente. The first 20 minutes after half time were all for them. Ajax couldn’t escape from Twente’s pressure and Theo Janssen’s goal in the 56th wasn’t a surprise. Buysse played to ball to Luuk de Jong, who could easily run away from full back Gregory van der Wiel. The younger De Jong brother picked out a low cross for Theo Janssen, who scored the equalizer. It’s not the first time this season Ajax fail to hold a ‘comfortable’ lead.

Frank de Boer chose to make a substitute and replaced Demy de Zeeuw with Eyong Enoh, who’s more of a holding midfielder. With this, Ajax tried to disrupt Twente’s domination. It restored the balance in midfield but Twente were still the ones with the best chances. Ajax looked more for a counter attack with pacy wingers Sulejmani and Ebecilio. One of them resulted in Ebecilio blasting the ball on the post. Twente were twice close to the winning goal just before full time with headers by Bryan Ruiz and Luuk de Jong. Those showed Ajax’s weakness at defending high balls entering their box. Every single high ball, from set pieces or open play, were a struggle for Ajax’s defense with FC Twente’s strong air force. Solving this problem will be a key in next week’s game.

The decision in the game wasn’t made after 90 minutes. Striker Dario Cvitanich replaced Gregory van der Wiel. Anita dropped on line and took over his place. Also Siem de Jong dropped a line back into midfield. With the change, Ajax dominated in extra time. Ajax had the chances to take the lead again. With two excellent long shots by Siem de Jong and a header on the bar by Daley Blind, who had replaced Boilesen earlier on. Despite the long spell of possession, Ajax couldn’t capitalize on this opportunity.

It was FC Twente who scored the winning goal in the 116th minute. It was a flashback to the World Cup Final for me, where Iniesta scored in exactly the same minute. An unjustified, Janko made a foul on Vertonghen and not the other way around, free kick was headed in by Austrian Marc Janko. It once again proved the weakness of Ajax’s defense in set pieces and high crosses.

In the end, FC Twente maybe was the deserved winner of the 3rd Dutch Cup in their history. Despite Ajax dominating in possession (61% – 39%), it was FC Twente who created most chances. All in all it was a fantastic game between two evenly matched teams.

For both, the most important game of the season still has to come, next week in the Amsterdam ArenA. There, they’ll battle for the league title. Post-match comments from Ajax’s side showed their hunger and motivation to win that one. The ‘Amsterdammers’ will be 100% ready and with the fans full behind them, beautiful things can happen. On the other hand, FC Twente only need a draw to secure they prolong their league title. Add this to their constant performances and experienced squad and they are favorites for the win. Only 6 nights of sleep left and we’ll know which team will be crowned as champions. Anything can happen.

 

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