The reigning champions enjoyed a comfortable afternoon at the Amsterdam Arena, bagging a crucial win as their title rivals stutter to losses
With PSV having fallen to defeat away to NAC Breda earlier in the day and AZ not scheduled to play until later, victory for the Godenzonen would see them climb to at least third place in the standings. A win for the visitors, meanwhile, would see them overtake Groningen in eighth.
Ajax looked the more threatening side in the opening exchanges. Full-back Ricardo van Rhijn saw his rifled shot fly just wide, before De Jong’s poor touch spurned a golden opportunity after Ebicilio’s slicing pass had put the forward in the clear.
The hosts continued to peg back their visitors, driving forward in numbers but failing to find the incisiveness needed to open the scoring. RKC did forge a chance of their own, but Auassar’s shot failed to trouble Vermeer. Eriksen then saw his attempt go agonisingly wide at the other end, after the Dane failed to get enough on a delivery from Ozbiliz.
It was Ajax who eventually found the breakthrough, with Vertonghen opening the scoring in the 27th minute. The RKC defence failed to deal with a curving corner into the danger area, allowing the Belgian to convert from close range.
The goal saw Ajax lower their tempo, allowing RKC more of the ball. The Waalwijk outfit nearly punished the hosts for their complacency, as Schet came inches from leveling the scores off an Auassar delivery.
Vertonghen nearly doubled his tally on the stroke of half-time, after the visitors again struggled to deal with a Janssen corner. The centre-back’s header was heading for the back of the net, but a last-gasp intervention from Van Peppen denied the skipper his second of the night.
Both sides came out of the break with attacking intentions, knowing the next goal scored would be crucial. RKC vainly looked to their wingers in search for chances, before Jan Vertonghen saw his half-volley collected by Zoet.
Ajax would not be denied a second however, with De Jong pouncing on poor defensive play from the visitors in the 55th minute. The Dutchman was quick to react to a poor pass from Auassar to Zoet, and coolly rounded the keeper before slotting home.
With news of Twente’s deficit against NEC spreading around the Amsterdam Arena, the Ajax faithful were encouraging their side to push for more. The home side very nearly found their third shortly after, with Anita seeing his shot parried before goalscorer de Jong saw his shot fly well wide.
The hosts comfortably dictated the remainder of the game, moving the ball around without being troubled by RKC’s blunt attacking unit. Slack defending nearly gifted the visitors a lifeline back into the tie, but Vermeer did well to preserve his side’s clean sheet. Daley Blind came close to spectacularly scoring late on, as the youngster saw his volley from the edge of the box beat Zoet but also the post.
Ajax did find a third in the 90th minute, however as Ebicilio netted his fourth in two games. The winger was first to react to a dangerous cross from Bulykin, and calmly netted past a helpless Zoet.
The victory sees Ajax climb to the summit of the table following Twente’s loss to NEC. The Tukkers hold a game in hand over the reigning champions however, while second-placed AZ are scheduled to play later today.