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Season review: Netherlands

Published: Friday 17 June 2011, 9.16CET
A dramatic climax saw FC Twente lift the Dutch Cup before being denied back-to-back titles by AFC Ajax as Frank de Boer's charges ended a seven-year wait for their 30th championship.
by Berend Scholten
Season review: Netherlands
André Ooijer leads the celebrations after Ajax clinch the title with victory against Twente ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 17 June 2011, 9.16CET

Season review: Netherlands

A dramatic climax saw FC Twente lift the Dutch Cup before being denied back-to-back titles by AFC Ajax as Frank de Boer's charges ended a seven-year wait for their 30th championship.

AFC Ajax avenged their Dutch Cup final defeat at the hands of FC Twente by beating the Tukkers 3-1 on the last day of the season to clinch a 30th league title, their first since 2004.

Champions: AFC Ajax
Frank de Boer replaced Martin Jol in December and appeared to have dealt with the loss of Luis Suárez and Urby Emanuelson to Liverpool FC and AC Milan respectively. However, a 3-2 defeat at ADO Den Haag on 20 March left them six points adrift at the top. It needed a run of six successive league victories, including the decisive 3-1 win against Twente on a dramatic final day of the season, to earn Ajax a 30th league title. It was a "beautiful birthday present" for the 41-year-old De Boer.

Cup final: FC Twente 3–2 AFC Ajax (aet)
Holders Ajax got off to a flying start as Demy de Zeeuw and Lorenzo Ebecilio established a 2-0 lead. Goals either side of half-time from Wout Brama and Theo Janssen took the game into extra time, and it looked destined for a penalty shoot-out when Janssen's free-kick was headed in by substitute Marc Janko in the 117th minute to earn the Enschede club their third Dutch Cup. "Twente are a fantastic club and they've become a bit more fantastic now," said coach Michel Preud'homme. "This was a beautiful final."

European places
AFC Ajax – UEFA Champions League group stage
FC Twente – UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
PSV Eindhoven – UEFA Europa League play-offs
AZ Alkmaar – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
ADO Den Haag – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

Player of the Year: Theo Janssen (FC Twente)
In his third season at Twente, midfielder Janssen developed into a natural leader and thrived in a more attacking role under Preud'homme. He scored 13 league goals, starred in the Dutch Cup final and impressed throughout Twente's run to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. The 29-year-old will grace the UEFA Champions League with Ajax next season.

One to watch: Christian Eriksen (AFC Ajax)
Chosen by a jury headed by Johan Cruyff as young player of the year, attacking midfielder Eriksen put in a string of impressive performances in Ajax's title-winning campaign. The 19-year-old scored six goals in 28 league appearances as well as contributing nine assists. Cruyff described him as "a player I like with all my heart," adding: "He's a typical product of the Danish school; you can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup."

Surprise package: ADO Den Haag
A formidable presence in Dutch football in the 1960s, Den Haag have struggled in recent years, even reduced to playing second-tier football. However, under John van den Brom, Den Haag played some fantastic flowing football and had real menace up front in the shape of 21-goal former Russian international Dmitri Bulykin. They did the double against Ajax and beat PSV Eindhoven but topped it all with a play-off triumph over FC Groningen to earn a place in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round – returning to European competition after a 24-year absence.

Leading scorer: Björn Vleminckx, NEC Nijmegen (23)

Number: 3
Ajax will become the first club in the Netherlands to wear three stars on their shirt next season after winning their 30th Dutch title.

Relegated: Willem II

Promoted: RKC Waalwijk

Quote
"A championship plate with a dent; that is a bit symbolic of our season."
Ajax coach Frank de Boer gets philosophical after captain Maarten Stekelenburg dropped the championship plate from the top of the team bus on a celebratory tour of Amsterdam

Last updated: 09/12/12 9.12CET

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