January signing Sebastien Haller scores a bizarre goal as Ajax secure a narrow win over RKC Waalwijk on Sunday.

Ajax move one step closer towards securing the Eredivisie title, thanks to a 1-0 win over RKC Waalwijk on Sunday. It was a hard-fought victory for the Dutch giants, who opened up aΒ splendid eleven-point lead at the top with just six matches remaining in the season.

Coming on the back of a 2-1 defeat to AS Roma in midweek, Erik ten Hag’s men were not on their brightest form, especially from a creative aspect. Ajax, though, did make an impressive start to the campaign, exerting early pressure on the Waalwijk defence and were eventually rewarded as Sebastien Haller’s ‘kung-fu kick’ found the back of the net in the 14th minute.

I Lancieri couldn’t really create too many scoring chances after that point as Waalwijk looked more than happy to just sit back and avoid humiliation. The move worked quite well as the relegation candidates allowed Ajax only four shots on target in the entirety of the game, although they failed to offer the attacking threat needed to find the equaliser.

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As a result, Ajax themselves didn’t have much trouble seeing out their slender one-goal lead. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over Dutch champions in their hard-fought victory over Waalwijk this weekend.

Kjell Scherpen: 6/10

ten Hag was forced to call upon the services of Kjell Scherpen once again, as veteran goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was not fit enough to play. The young shot-stopper had a quiet day at the office as Waalwijk could only muster three attempts on goal, none of which found the target. An easy clean sheet, but things could be much more difficult against AS Roma in midweek.

Devyne Rensch: 6.5/10

Devyne Rensch continued to deputise for the injured Noussair Mazraoui at right-back. The young defender tried to offer the attacking support by making a few runs forward, but his day was cut short by an injury that prompted his substitution around the hour mark. His absence will cause a massive headache for ten Hag.

Jurrien Timber: 7.5/10

Jurrien Timber was impressive at the heart of the Ajax backline. He was strong in dealing with the Waalwijk attackers, notably making a total of three clearances while winning all of his ground duels. His contributions were indeed vital in helping Ajax keep a clean sheet.

Lisandro Martinez: 7.5/10

Lisandro Martinez’s imposing presence at the back made Ajax almost impenetrable for the Waalwijk attack. He impressed the onlookers with his defensive positioning while also using his physicality to good effect, winning four duels. He is going to be a vital cog in the Ajax backline, in the game against Roma.

Nicolas Tagliafico: 7.5/10

Nicolas Tagliafico was tasked with the responsibility of offering creative support forward. The technically gifted full-back did make useful movements going forward,Β even whipping in a couple of nice crosses into the box. In fact, the Argentine virtually camped himself in the opposition half for the most part of the game. He is certainly a gem on the left hand side of the Ajax defence.

Edson Alvarez: 6.5/10

Edson Alvarez had a solid game in the middle of the park, screening the backline with his aggression and physicality. The midfielder also moved forward whenever it was necessary. Looked clumsy at times, but it was an influential display nonetheless.

Davy Klaassen: 5.5/10

Davy Klaassen offered a lot of assurance in possession for Ajax, which was important in helping them maintain control of the game. The former Bremen midfielder, though, was bereft of ideas going forward and couldn’t really create too many opportunities.

Ryan Gravenberch: 6/10

Much like Klaassen, Ryan Gravenberch had difficulties breaching the Waalwijk backline. He was given very little space to work his magic in the final third as the opponents did not provide too much room in between the lines, leaving the youngster frustrated.

Antony: 5/10

Antony didn’t have the best of games against Waalwijk, struggling to get himself involved in the proceedings while looking very ineffective when he did. Certainly needs to improve if Ajax are to have any hopes of striking a comeback against Roma in midweek.

Sebastien Haller: 7/10

Sebastien Haller scored the all-important opener with a rather unusual finish. He offered the physical presence in the final third while also trying to make incisive runs in behind the backline. However, he was caught offside way too often as Waalwijk stuck true to their offside trap.

Dusan Tadic: 7.5/10

Dusan Tadic was by far the most impressive Ajax attacker in this narrow win over Waalwijk. The former Southampton star delivered a plethora of incisive crosses from the wider areas of the park, one of which even led to Haller’s opener. His influence did eventually wane but it was still an impressive display nonetheless.

Substitutes

Mohammed Kudus: 6.5/10

Mohammed Kudus replaced the ineffective Klaassen in the 53rd minute. Made some driving runs into the final third, but not enough to cause trouble for the opposition.

Sean Klaiber: 6/10

Sean Klaiber replaced the injured Rensch just after the hour-mark and it appears the 26-year-old could emerge as an option for Ajax in midweek, in the right-back slot.

David Neres: 6/10

David Neres replaced the ineffective Antony in the 62nd minute to add more energy and spark in the Ajax attack. Did not make much of an impact though.

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