Ajax beat Utrecht 1-0

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Ajax returned to the top of the Eredivisie on Sunday after a 1-0 win over Utrecht at the Amsterdam Arena.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Ajax returned to the top of the Eredivisie on Sunday after a 1-0 win over Utrecht at the Amsterdam Arena. In a scrappy match, Rafael van der Vaart scored the only goal of the game fifteen minutes from the end. After being knocked out of European competition with a Champions League defeat to Club Brugge in midweek, Ajax were looking to get back on track against Utrecht. But the main action of the first half was from the stands, as the Amsterdammers lit up a series of spectacular flares. A header from Nigel de Jong that was pushed wide by Utrecht stopper Rene Ponk was about all the home side had to show for their rather lacklustre efforts. Ajax thought they had scored shortly after the restart, with Wesley Sonck smashing the ball past Ponk. The Belgian striker's joy was shortlived, however, as referee Dick Jol brought the play back for a freekick - substitute Zlatan Ibrahamovic had been fouled in the build-up. Utrecht almost snatched the lead when Stefaan Tanghe's run into the penalty area was not spotted by the Ajax back four. The midfielder was found by Michael Lamey, but he skewered his shot wide with just Bogdan Lobont left to beat. The match looked to be meandering to a dull draw, but Ronald Koeman's side finally enlivened the encounter with a goal fifteen minutes from the end. Maxwell's cross was coolly placed into the corner of the net by Rafael van der Vaart - the young captain showing a masterful touch to pick his spot. Joost Broerse should have put the visitors on level terms - but he somehow contrived to hit the crossbar from all of three metres out. It was a shocking miss after good work from Dave van den Bergh down the left flank. A sluggish Ajax hung on for the three points - enough to lift them a point above second-placed PSV Eindhoven with a game in hand. (AP)

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