Ajax are six points clear at the top of the Eredivisie after a slender 2-1 win over Sparta Rotterdam.

Ryan Babel made his third debut in an Ajax shirt, while Ryan Gravenberch and Quincy Promes both started for the hosts.

Ajax began brightly with Dusan Tadic testing Sparta goalkeeper Ariël Harush before Donny van de Beek made it 1-0 in the 14th minute.

Harush denied Ajax several times after the opener, while at the other end, Ragner Ache fired wide in a rare moment for the visitors.

After an hour, Ajax eventually doubled their lead with Gravenberch slotting in from close range after combining with substitute Jurgen Ekkelenkamp, who replaced the injured Hakim Ziyech. The Moroccan maestro was forced off early in the second half, and his fitness will be a major concern for Erik ten Hag.

After the second goal, Ajax took their eye off the ball and Abdou Harroui came close with a strike that smashed the post. With fifteen minutes remaining, Sparta did make it 2-1 with Joel Piroe controlling a finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors then pushed for an equaliser and only an excellent Lisandro Martinez clearance, which also hit the post denied Adil Auassar. Joel Veltman also cleared Ache’s effort off the line as Ajax held on for the three points.

The win moves Ajax six points clear of AZ at the top while Sparta are 11th.

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