Feyenoord began with passion, driving back the Champions League quarterfinalists in the first twenty minutes. The best chance fell to Kalou, who rasped in an effort from distance that Lobont was forced to push around the post.
Ajax’s first opportunity was created out of nothing by Litmanen with over half an hour on the clock. He picked up the ball midway the Feyenoord half and torpedoed it towards goal, only to see Lodewijks judge the trajectory perfectly and palm the ball over the bar at full stretch.
Those were the two best chances of the first act in a game that had passion in spades, while the cup atmosphere made life difficult for the more refined players.
Feyenoord started the second half much as they started the first, with wave after wave of attack. Within two minutes of the restart Van Hooijdonk headed a Bosvelt ball goalwards, only to see his effort crash against the far post and rebound to safety via Lobont’s head.
Bosvelt was clearly in the mood for an Amstel Cup final appearance and the Feyenoord midfielder tightened his grip on the game in the middle of the park. His reward came on 53 minutes.
The home captain picked up the ball downfield and raced through a couple of tackles before pushing the ball through to Emerton just inside the box. The Australian laid the ball off for the incoming Bosvelt who had continued his surge and he stroked the ball home to put Feyenoord one up.
The opening goal woke Ajax up from their slumber and the Amsterdammers started to push the home side back towards its own goal in much the same way as in the first half.
The visitor’s best chance fell to Van der Vaart who lost Van Wonderen in the box, but failed to find the target with his header despite having acres of space and bags of time.
Van Marwijk took off Kalou, who was blowing hot and cold, and threw on Song, while Ajax coach Koeman swapped Witschge for Passanen, the second Finn of the evening to be sacrificed after Litman made way for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ajax continued to press, as the excitement levels rose in the stadium and no doubt in millions of living rooms up and down the country, as this match was broadcast live on national TV.
And the temperature rose even higher when Luinge sent off Van Hooijdonk for what looked like an innocuous tussle in the middle of the park. Van Hooijdonk looked on in disbelief as the referee reached for red.
A little later, with Song doing a fine job of holding onto the ball deep in the Ajax half down by the corner flag, Chivu seemed to lose his head, shoving the South Korean out of the way and then running after Song and appearing to throw a punch at the Feyenoorder, but Luinge decided to let the Romanian off unpunished, which did nothing to calm the partisan home fans, or the men in red and white on the pitch.
Despite the Amsterdammers having a man extra, the visitors were unable to crack the home defence and the Kuip erupted at the final whistle as Feyenoord confirmed their place in the Amstel Cup final on 1 June against FC Utrecht.
Feyenoord-Ajax 1-0 (0-0)
53’ 1-0 Bosvelt
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Emerton, Van Wonderen, De Nooijer, Paauwe; Kalou (70’ Kalou), Bosvelt, Ono, Lurling (85’ Loovens); Buffel, Van Hooijdonk
Ajax: Lobont; O’Brein, Chivu, Pasanen (73’ Witschge), Maxwell; Sneijder, Yakubu, Van der Vaart; Boukhari (84’ Van Damme), Litmanen (54’ Zlatan), Van der Meyde
Referee: R. Luinge
Red: Van Hooijdonk