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Season review: Netherlands

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 10.20CET
After a difficult first half of the campaign left AFC Ajax 13 points adrift at the Eredivisie summit, a remarkable run of 14 straight wins brought them their 31st Dutch championship.
by Berend Scholten
Season review: Netherlands
Captain Jan Vertonghen leads Ajax's title celebrations ©Getty Images

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Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 10.20CET

Season review: Netherlands

After a difficult first half of the campaign left AFC Ajax 13 points adrift at the Eredivisie summit, a remarkable run of 14 straight wins brought them their 31st Dutch championship.

Written off by many as early as February, AFC Ajax managed to successfully defend their title with a remarkable run of victories that brought them their 31st Dutch championship. PSV Eindhoven, meanwhile, claimed their ninth Dutch Cup at the expense of Heracles Almelo. 

Champions: AFC Ajax
Despite bolstering their ranks with midfielder Theo Janssen and attackers Derk Boerrigter and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson last summer, Frank de Boer's side initially suffered from injuries and a hectic schedule. In February they found themselves trailing leaders AZ Alkmaar by 13 points. But they dug deep, and where competitors AZ, PSV and FC Twente dropped points, Frank de Boer's side produced an incredible 14 straight victories to clinch their 31st title – and back-to-back crowns for the first time since 1996.

Cup final: PSV Eindhoven 3–0 Heracles Almelo
PSV won their ninth Dutch Cup by beating Heracles Almelo in the Rotterdam final. Heracles, who were contesting the first cup final in their 109-year history, denied PSV for a just over half an hour, but then Ola Toivonen broke the deadlock in beautiful fashion, flicking Zakaria Labyad's pull-back through his own legs to score. Dries Mertens' header and Jeremain Lens' chip decided the matter in the second half, delivering Phillip Cocu his first prize in his new career as a coach.

European places*
AFC Ajax – UEFA Champions League, group stage
Feyenoord – UEFA Champions League, third qualifying round
PSV Eindhoven – UEFA Europa League, play-off
AZ Alkmaar – UEFA Europa League, play-off
sc Heerenveen – UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round
Vitesse – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
FC Twente – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round (via Fair Play)

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Jan Vertonghen (AFC Ajax)
The 25-year-old defender was made captain by De Boer this season, and grew into a reliable leader at the heart of the team. Imposing in the air, it was his forward surges, creating an extra man in midfield, which proved vital to Ajax's championship defence. The Belgian international has grown from a left-back into a dominant centre-half, and it is generally accepted that the former VK Tielrode, VAV Beerschot and RKC Waalwijk player is heading to one of Europe's top leagues.

One to watch: Adam Maher (AZ Alkmaar)
The 18-year-old Maher was elected Talent of the Year, an honour which will earn him the Johan Cruyff award. "He has been one of the most consistent this year, having been a key player for AZ in almost every match," Cruyff said. The two-footed Moroccan-born player is one of the uncapped members of Bert van Marwijk's provisional UEFA EURO 2012 squad, having broken through this term. Starting as a substitute, Maher quickly became indispensible and played in all of AZ's 34 Eredivisie matches, scoring five times.

Surprise package: Feyenoord
After a disastrous 10th-place finish last season, the traditional Dutch giants restored the natural order in the Netherlands by coming second, ensuring the traditional 'big three' of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV formed the top three for the first time since 2004. Coach Ronald Koeman has done a sterling job with a team consisting mainly of players who came through the youth system while the 20 goals by Manchester City FC loanee John Guidetti added the extra push.

Leading scorer: Bas Dost (32)

Relegated: SBV Excelsior, De Graafschap

Promoted: FC Zwolle, Willem II

Number: 14
The 14 straight victories in the last 14 matches of the season brought Ajax their 31st Eredivisie crown, after fighting back from a 13-point deficit. It is not a club record however, as the Ajax of coach Stefan Kovács and legend Johan Cruyff earned 19 victories in row between 3 October 1971 and 26 March 1972. Between 9 April and 28 October 1995 Louis van Gaal's Ajax also managed 19 victories, but shared over two seasons.

Quote
"Now it falls on my toe – this plate just does not like me."
Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen after dropping the Dutch championship plate during a TV interview. Last season, he and Maarten Stekelenburg dropped the plate from the top of the players' celebration bus, denting it.

Last updated: 31/01/14 10.20CET

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