AFC convinces in general for cup clash with Vitesse

AFC resumed the competition in the Second Division with the away match against the promises of Almere City FC, a meeting that was not seen as a piece of cake in advance in the Amsterdam camp. The first match in August 2023 was won 4-1, but at the time friend and foe agreed that that large score could certainly be called flattering. Conditionally and also in terms of field play, Jong Almere was certainly not inferior at the season opening. Months later, the equality of both teams was still clearly visible from the score. Because both teams found themselves back in the middle of the table at the start of the winter break.

In the meantime, coach Benno Nihom’s team ended the 2023 calendar year extremely positively, with the return to the left row via an away win at FC Lisse and four days later reaching the eighth KNVB Cup final at the expense of RKAV Volendam. The big question was therefore whether the upward trend could be maintained immediately after the winter break and, if possible, expanded, in the run-up to what could possibly become the top competition of the year 2024 on Thursday, January 18. Because that is what a good result will certainly be called when visiting the GelreDome with the pros of Eredivisie side Vitesse, in anticipation of the possible good things that may follow afterwards.

On the main field at the Yanmar stadium, AFC showed itself to be disciplined and alert right from the kick-off. The five-man defense in front of goalkeeper Gijs van Zetten, led by Dalian Maatsen and Tim Linthorst, had an excellent eye on Jong Almere’s agile attackers. The home team only gained a slight optical advantage, but was never given the opportunity to create real scoring opportunities. AFC did not initially make much of an offensive statement, but that changed immediately in the twenty-second minute when Oussama Siali gave his team the lead via the inside of the post. The fact that Siali of all people scored was remarkable, because he was the one who scored all four goals at home against Jong Almere. From that moment on, AFC was ‘loose’ offensively. The Almere goalkeeper initially stood in the way of a second goal from a shot by Melvin Platje, but immediately afterwards Splinter de Mooij scored the 0-2. That score was maintained until half-time, although Platje narrowly missed the chance for an even bigger lead. Defensively, there was no problem for AFC all that time.

After the restart, AFC’s dominance was, if possible, even greater. Midfielder Noa Benninga signed for 0-3 within three minutes with a long shot. The battle was now finally over. Jong Almere tried, but the AFC players did not let it happen until they changed their course. Not even when Gijs van Zetten had to concede a goal, after a good goalkeeping action resulted in the ball ending up with an Almere attacker running freely. Because barely five minutes later, Van Zetten reached Splinter de Mooij in the other goal area with a long kick. The well-playing attacker then served Wessel Been appropriately, after which the substitute once again proved his value to the AFC selection with a decisive goal. The afternoon became even better for AFC ten minutes before time when another substitute, Soufiane Hetli, put the 1-5 final score on the scoreboard.

Afterwards, AFC coach Benno Nihom was very satisfied with the result and the way of playing. “It is clear that we have found our way up. All the pieces of the puzzle now fall into place, because all three facets to achieve results were correct. First of all, you analyze the opponent. Second, you devise a battle plan based on that analysis. And thirdly, you execute that battle plan exactly as you thought it out. Today this was completely true. What I am also very proud of is that, unlike at the season opening, we no longer lacked fitness compared to the young professionals of Almere. In fact, in my opinion we were definitely a bit fresher than the opponent towards the end.”

Due to the score progression in the second half, Nihom was ultimately able to make the maximum five substitutions without any worries. “At the end we are just in the field with a lot of young guys. It’s wonderful to see how the substitutes are supported by the experienced staff in my team. That’s exactly what I wanted to see in the team.”

Nihom obviously could not and did not want to deny that AFC had gained a super dose of confidence for the cup match against Vitesse. “Yes, the good feeling is certainly there. And indeed, Vitesse has not really been in good shape this season. However, there is not much to say in advance, because it has to happen in a single match. In any case, what we are going to do is sell our skin as expensively as possible. And we will of course make it a party for the AFC club, for sure.”

View all the results, the standings and the program in the Second Division here

Text: Jakob Kos

Photos: Ton van Eenennaam

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