Ajax claim 30th Dutch title

by AFP on May 16, 2011

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Four-time European champions Ajax claimed their 30th Dutch league title by beating nearest rivals FC Twente 3-1 on the final day of the Eredivisie season on Sunday.

Ajax went into the game a point behind Twente, the defending champions, but finished the campaign two points ahead of them, thereby ending a seven-year wait for Dutch football's top prize.

Twente only required a draw at the Amsterdam ArenA to retain the title, which they had won for the first time last season under the tutelage of former England manager Steve McCLaren.

However, McClaren's successor, Belgian coach Michel Preud'homme, saw his charges fall two goals down through a 23rd-minute strike by Siem de Jong and an own goal from defensive midfielder Denny Landzaat a minute after half-time.

Influential Twente midfielder Theo Janssen reduced the arrears shortly afterwards with a superb shot into the roof of the net, but de Jong killed off the visitors' title hopes with a third goal for Ajax 12 minutes from time.

Both teams qualified for the Champions League, with third-placed PSV Eindhoven having to make do with the consolation of a place in next season's Europa League.

Ajax, the traditional powerhouse of Dutch football, had seen PSV (2005-2008), AZ Alkmaar (2009) and Twente (2010) all pip them to the title since their last success under former coach Ronald Koeman.

Victory over Twente also secured a measure of revenge after the team from the eastern city of Enschede defeated the Amsterdam side 3-2 after extra time in last weekend's Dutch Cup final.

Ajax's title success caps a season in which the club experienced numerous off-field problems, with persistent reports of friction between the board and sporting director Johan Cruyff, emblem of the great Ajax side of the 1970s.

Coach Martin Jol resigned in December, with the team six points off the pace in the title race, and at the start of this year the board stepped down en masse to allow Cruyff to assemble a new management hierarchy.

Frank de Boer, another former player, subsequently left his position as assistant to national team coach Bert van Marwijk in order to succeed Jol and rescue Ajax from another trophyless campaign.

De Boer, who won five national championships during his time on Ajax's playing staff, recently signed a contract committing him to the club until 2014.