THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

2 June ~ The battle for the Dutch title, like last season, went right to the wire, with both FC Twente and Ajax once again in contention. This time round, however, there was an extra twist as the two sides went head-to-head in Amsterdam on the final day. Ajax, trailing the team from Enschede by a point and therefore needing to win, did just that; their 3-1 victory bringing them their first championship trophy since 2004 (keeper Maarten Stekelenburg duly dropped it from the upper deck of the open-top bus when, holding it aloft, it clipped an overhead tram cable).

Becoming champions was quite a remarkable triumph for Ajax. By December they were clearly struggling under Martin Jol, trailing in the Eredivisie and having been soundly spanked 4-0 at home by Real Madrid in the Champions League. The club took the bold decision of ditching the former Spurs boss in favour of the untried Frank de Boer and, while the football under the new man wasn't always particularly pleasing on the eye, the results certainly improved. Even still, Ajax headed into the tail-end of the season trailing Twente and PSV by six and five points respectively, and few thought they could overhaul both teams.

However, the form of Michel Preud'homme's team was inconsistent. Although Twente won the Dutch cup (defeating Ajax in the final one week before the title decider) and reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League, the overall sense was of a side beginning to run out of steam. The departure of inspirational midfielder Theo Janssen – voted the Eredivisie's player of the year – to Ajax is almost certain to hinder their chances of winning the league again in the coming season.

As for PSV, they too dropped points with unerring regularity during the run-in. They also failed to score in all four matches against their two main challengers, and their limp 0-0 draw away to Groningen on the last day – when a win would have seen them overtake Twente and land them a Champions League qualification spot – seemed to sum up their ineptness. Losing Ibrahim Afellay to Barcelona during the January transfer window and Brazilian striker Jonathan Reis to a horrific knee injury round the same time obviously didn't help, although questions could be asked about why they didn't secure any adequate replacements.

The biggest surprise package of the season was ADO Den Haag. Perennial underachievers and more renowned for the antics of their supporters, they beat Ajax home and away, defeated PSV in Eindhoven and eventually finished seventh, high enough for participation in the Europa League play-offs. After disposing of Roda JC they faced FC Groningen in a two-legged decider, contriving to win 5-1 at home and then lose by the same margin away, but eventually winning on penalties and thus booking their place in Europe for the first time in 24 years. Derek Brookman

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