Feyenoord made a strong impression early on at the Arena, producing two fine opportunities within the first quarter of an hour. Dirk Kuyt’s tenacity on twelve unsettled Maarten Stekelenburg and Greene capitalised to whip in a shot that Stekelenburg had to work hard to keep out. The home keeper also had to exert himself to deny Romeo Castelen a few minutes later. The outside right waltzed past Urby Emanuelson, before cutting inside to rifle off a low shot that Ajax’s last man kept out with his feet.
It was a promising start by Feyenoord, but the Rotterdammers couldn’t keep the momentum going, showing some defensive frailties as Ajax ventured forward. Ron Vlaar made two mistakes in almost as many minutes, but Rosales (over) and Hedwiges Maduro (wide) were unable to make the defender pay. The next error did not go unpunished however.
This time it was André Bahia who ceded possession unnecessarily, opening a path up for Rosales towards goal. The Argentinean’s first effort smashed against the bar, but when the ball came back to him Rosales had luck on his side, as his effort caught a deflection of Vlaar and into the top corner to give the hosts the lead. Ajax might even have grabbed a second before the break, when Huntelaar latched onto a misjudged back pass from Greene, but the Eredivisie’s top marksman was unable to find the target.
It wasn’t going to be Bahia’s evening. The Brazilian looked anything but strong in the first half, had a hand in the opening Ajax goal and saw his participation come to a premature end just past the hour mark. The ball had gone out for a throw to the home side, but Bahia decided to take the ball with him as he ran back to take up a defensive position and the referee rewarded him for his actions with a second yellow card.
The remaining ten visitors might have felt that the hosts would go for the kill, but before Ajax had a chance to go on the attack they were also down to ten men. Pienaar had been on the pitch for little over five minutes when he went in hard on Dirk Kuyt and was shown a straight red to end his night almost before it had started. And yet the South African’s dismissal worked against Feyenoord, as the Amsterdammers went for broke. It culminated in a minute of madness for the Rotterdammers that all but ended their Champions League hopes.
The headache started on 79 minutes when Heitinga was given time and space to score from Boukhari’s free kick, but the tumult had barely died down again when Rosales send in a cross that Huntelaar headed in at the far post for number three.
And as if the evening hadn’t turned sour enough, Erwin Koeman’s side were left sucking at lemons in the final couple of minutes when Castelen was shown the game’s third red card after hauling down Huntelaar when the home striker had a free run in on goal, leaving Feyenoord with a number of Himalayan peaks to climb come Sunday at De Kuip.
Ajax – Feyenoord 3-0
27’ 1-0 Rosales
79’ 2-0 Heitinga
80’ 3-0 Huntelaar
Yellow: Heitinga, Vlaar
Red: 61’ Bahia (2x yellow), 71’ Pienaar, 87’ Castelen
Ajax: Stekelenburg; Boakye, Heitinga, Vermaelen, Emanuelson; Galasek, Maduro (65’ Pienaar), Boukhari; Rosales, Huntelaar, Rosenberg.
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Gyan, Vlaar, Bahia, Bosschaart; Greene, Paauwe, De Guzman; Castelen, Kuyt, Kalou (81’ Boussaboun).