Ajax and Vitesse dissected: how the cup final was decided by one part

Ajax won the twentieth KNVB Cup in club history at the expense of Vitesse (2-1). This is how the Amsterdammers managed to control the match after ninety minutes.
By Evert van Zoelen
Initial phase for VitesseIn the opening phase, both teams keep each other in balance. Both Ajax and Vitesse put good pressure, which ensures that neither team is able to keep the ball in the team for a longer period of time. The Amsterdammers do this by putting pressure on the central defenders of Vitesse with the three spires. When the ball goes to the wing defender, the back of Ajax continues.
Ajaxs three attackers put pressure on the three central defenders. Source: ESPN.
The ball goes to the wing defender, then Nicรณlas Tagliafico continues. Source: ESPN.
Vitesse finds, after about ten minutes, a way to get out of this pressure from Ajax. One of the central defenders, usually Riechedly Bazoer, moves into the midfield, so the spires of Ajax can no longer push all forward. In this way, right wing defender Eli Dasa can often be unlocked.
Tadic needs to keep the line to Bazoer closed, releasing Dasa. The back of Vitesse is quite low on the field and therefore Tagliafico cannot continue. Source: ESPN.
Vitesse first becomes dangerous when Dasa puts the ball behind the defense, resulting in a chance for Bero. A little later it is also Dasa who, with such a pass, forms the basis of the 1-1 of Loรฏs Openda.
Ajax finds Maniervitesse often puts high pressure in the Eredivisie. The spires and midfielders close the centre, after which the structure of the counterparty is directed towards the sides. Once there, the wing defender of the Arnhemmers gets out to secure the opponent to the side.
Against Ajax trainer Thomas Letsch opts for a slightly more conservative approach. Together with Oussama Tannane, the spires close the centre, but the wing defenders remain in position this time. In this way Vitesse has a little more defensive security, but it is also the result that the backs of Ajax can often receive the ball freely.
Vitesse
s wing defender is not stepping through, so Tagliafico is free to build up. Source: ESPN.
Nevertheless, Ajax only manages to achieve a few advances, but as the race progresses, the Amsterdammers get more opportunities. Devyne Rensch is going to play more on the inside, which means Vitesse has to go on with a central defender to keep pressure on him. In addition, Ryan Gravenberch sails more, allowing him to measure a Vitesse midfielder and make room for other players.
The opening goal of Ajax comes from a similar situation. Ajax has the ball on the side of the field. Normally, Vitesses wing defender would get off. Since that is not happening now, it is precisely the midfielder who decides to take over the task, making Antony suddenly completely free.
Building up to the 1-0: Antony will be completely released on the midfield. Source: ESPN.
Adjustments to VitesSena put the rest of Latsch and his assistants to change it again. When Ajax plays the ball to the side of the field, it is the wing defenders who now step out as usual. As a result, both shifts are placed one-on-one in the back of the press. This leads in the first phase of the second half to many long, high, balls over and over again. At Ajax you can see that they are waiting for Vitesse to continue to search Sรฉbastien Haller with a long ball and continue to play from him.
This one-on-one football also leads to a lot of space in the midfield. In the 65th minute it is Latsch who makes the first counter-move, by bringing Idrissa Tourรฉ instead of Openda. Tourรฉ will cover Gravenberch as a midfielder, making Vitesse play in a kind of 5-3-1-1. With Oussama Tannane just behind striker Armando Broja. Ajax gets a bit more the ball, but Vitesse is more compact in the back.
This seems to be going well for Vitesse, until Jacob Rasmussen gets a red card for a rash tackle on Antony and Vitesse has to move on with ten men. Letsch switches to a 4-4-1 formation by shifting Bazoer to the midfield.
In the injury time, Ajax still pulls the cup finals. Remarkable is that again a further step towards the second pole is the reason. At the 1-0 it was Gravenberch who was released at the second pole, now it is David Neres who has escaped all the attention. Also during the race we see the first move of Antony towards Tadic who ran away from the back of his defender at the second pole.
Neres is free at the second pole. Source: ESPN.
Evert van Zoelen is an analyst for the YouTube channel TheNextManager, has written for policy websites and magazines such as Spielverlagerung, TrainersMagazine and Futbol Netradince and looks at important matches for Football First.