Ajax claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Sparta Rotterdam on Saturday to remain in pole position to win the Eredivisie title.

Louis van Gaal was in the crowd to watch two of his former clubs face off and both players came onto the pitch with t-shirts wishing the Netherlands head coach strength after he confirmed his cancer battle.

Noussair Mazraoui, Lisandro Martínez, Antony, Remko Pasveer and Devyne Rensch were all missing for Ajax, and the home side had a poor start to the game. The first chance was for Sparta but Mario Engels shot just wide.

Sparta stunned the home crowd in the 33rd minute by taking the lead after an error from Andre Onana. The goalkeeper gifted the ball to Arno Verschueren, who set up Joeri de Kamps to net.

Sparta could have had more goals by halftime but an uninspired Ajax went into the break with only a one goal deficit. Ajax came out a different side in the second half and they found the equaliser in the 49th minute when Dusan Tadic served Davy Klaassen to fire in.

On the hour mark, Ajax was awarded a penalty when Adil Auassar handled in the box and Tadic made it 2-1 for the hosts from the spot.

Sebastien Haller had a goal disallowed before the end while Klaassen also hit the post. Sparta remained in the game but there was no equaliser despite them using Tom Beugelsdijk as a battering ram towards the end.

Ajax moves seven points clear at the top with only five games left for the leaders. Sparta are now 17th.




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