Was it out or in? That question will be discussed for a long time after Sunday afternoon’s top match. At PSV they know. When Ajax defender Daley Blind touched the ball on the left flank, prior to Ajax’s winning goal, it had crossed the sideline. It looked like that on TV pictures too. The ball was over the sideline. However?
As is often the case during this match, it turned out that the perception of the naked eye does not always correspond to the judgment in the bunker in Zeist. There, behind a wall full of computer screens, the video arbitrator came to a different conclusion. It took him a while, but in the end, after examining all the camera angles, VAR couldn’t say for sure that the ball had completely crossed the line.
Or, as was later concluded on social media: you can never be 100 percent sure that a ball has crossed the line. If the bottom is over it, it doesn’t have to be the side.
“Disgraceful”, PSV captain Marco van Ginkel nevertheless said when he was confronted with the images at the ESPN desk a few seconds after the final whistle. Was the ball just out?
Ajax leader again
At Ajax they will shrug their shoulders about whether the ball had crossed the line. More important was the end result. Thanks to the controversial goal by Noussair Mazraoui, the team of coach Erik ten Hag took three important points in the title battle with PSV. Ajax is again in the lead. Two points off – while it lasts.
This topper was a completely different match than the previous meeting between Ajax and PSV, on October 24 last year, when Ajax won with such big numbers (5-0) that the further course of the season was marked out. At least, if you had to believe analysts and newspapers.
One reporter saw PSV go “complete knockout” that Sunday, the other noted that Ajax did not need top form to roll over PSV, while – admittedly – it was also reported in NRC that the gap between the two clubs at that time felt larger than the actual four points.
PSV coach Roger Schmidt contributed to that feeling. “Everyone can see that Ajax has a better chance of winning the title than we do,” he said after that defeat. It was during a period when he often hinted that the grass in Amsterdam was greener. More expensive players, bigger salaries, more quality. The well-known story of financial power play in Amsterdam versus the underdogs in Eindhoven – the common thread in the top of the Eredivisie for years now.
When Voetbal International dived into the numbers last week, you saw that gap again. Not only is Ajax’s salary house twice as large, in Amsterdam they also earned three times as much on the sale of players in the past five years. Bear in mind that PSV has conceded five times as many goals this season and it was almost unimaginable that PSV, not Ajax, started the top match in Eindhoven on Sunday.
The power of PSV? Consistency. PSV won eight of the nine games after that Sunday in October – only a draw was made at sc Heerenveen. Although Ajax hardly conceded any goals, it did play a draw against teams from the right-hand row (Heracles, Go Ahead) twice and lost to AZ. Matches that Ajax should have won based on the number of expected goals. So Ajax dropped back to second place because, among other things, it had been sloppy in the rounding.
Given the importance of goals, it therefore seemed inconvenient that top scorer Sébastien Haller now has Africa Cup commitments. But luckily for Ajax there was Brian Brobbey, the striker who regretted his move to RB Leipzig and had himself rented out to his old club this second half of the season.
Just like last week at FC Utrecht, Brobbey was also important for Ajax against PSV. Although it was with pain and difficulty.
Before the striker could open the score after half an hour, he collided with PSV defender Armando Obispo. Leg to leg. So Brobbey could barely run the moment he headed in the 1-0.
The striker handed out one more high-five before dropping to the ground. He hit the ground with his fist. One, two, three times. Brobbey was in pain. The man who looks so unbreakable with his voluminous torso and leg muscles could not take more.
Target man Brobbey
The ESPN commercial already spoke of an “intense” topper and that became apparent when Brobbey had to give in. He was replaced by Danilo, who could barely make a fist in the point of the attack for the remainder of the game. Ajax needs a target man like Brobbey.
PSV then seemed to smell blood. After the break, Schmidt’s team quickly equalized. It was Mario Götze who balanced the match with a watched shot after a smart move. After that, the topper seemed to end in a draw for a long time, until the questionable goal fifteen minutes before time.
A wonderful shot by Mazraoui, but it will hardly be about that in all the afterthoughts. Nor about the financial gap between the two clubs. But the question is whether the ball was in or out during the previous action.