As expected, the sheer number of Vitesse players injured or suspended left head coach Henk Fraser little choice but to return Matt Miazga to the starting lineup. Despite a somewhat makeshift back line (not inexperienced, but only Guram Kashia would qualify as a regular starter based on selections to date this season), Fraser thought his team had done enough to be worth a point after recovering from a "sloppy" first half. Per de Gelderlander:
I have to give the team the compliments. Only the result is very disappointing.
Ajax went ahead in the 26th minute, courtesy of Davy Klaasen and a generous decision by the referee to allow what looked like a foul on a Vitesse player become a counter-attacking opportunity for Ajax. Vitesse 'keeper Eloy Room guessed right in a late penalty to prevent Ajax from doubling its advantage. In the interim, Vitesse did generate chances - at least two falling to Miazga - but it was a day when nothing went quite as hoped in front of goal for the team.
The 1-0 loss is the second consecutive game in which Vitesse has been shut out and beaten at home. The team now faces an important three-game road trip. Eredivisie away-days against Go Ahead Eagles (February 26) and PEC Zwolle (March 3) bracket a Dutch Cup semifinal against Sparta Rotterdam (March 1).
More league losses and Vitesse will lose considerable ground in the race for fourth place in Eredivisie - it is currently eighth in the table, but only four points shy of fourth. And, of course, the club would surely like to contest a Cup final this season.
The next three games could determine whether Vitesse ultimately looks back at this season as a success or a series of missed opportunities. And they will have some bearing on Matt Miazga's thoughts about this season also.
Since joining Vitesse on loan from Chelsea, he has been in and out of the starting lineup once already. That stint coincided with a losing skid for the team, and ended with Miazga scarcely able to get a minute off the bench. He has worked his way back into coach Fraser's confidence, becoming a regular substitute since the team returned from its winter break. Now injury has handed him a starting opportunity again, and this time it coincides with a pivotal week in Vitesse's season.