Football - ANALYSIS-Strong finishers Ajax profit from their rivals' woes

The roots of Ajax Amsterdam's third straight Dutch soccer title can be found not only in their strong finish to the season but in the failure of their rivals to capitalise on their own good starts.

Reuters

Ajax secured their 32nd title on Sunday with a 5-0 thrashing of relegated Willem II Tilburg which gave them a four-point lead over PSV Eindhoven with one match remaining.

Their third league victory under the coaching of former player Frank de Boer came despite a middling first half of the season.

Their second defeat of the campaign, 3-2 away at Vitesse Arnhem in late January, provided the spark they needed to turn things around and they embarked on an unbeaten run of 13 matches, including 10 wins.

While Ajax are a traditional breeding ground for top Dutch players, the champions often featured up to six Scandinavians in their starting line-up, and De Boer drew praise for his ability to make big decisions and tactical changes.

Ajax did not get top spot in the Eredivisie until March however, with PSV making much of the running earlier in the season.

PSV started their centenary with Dick Advocaat in charge and with Mark van Bommel back after successful spells at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AC Milan.

After a shock defeat to RKC Waalwijk in their season opener they went on to win eight straight matches to head the table.

The winter break proved fatal to their hopes however, as their form fell away despite leading the scoring charts with 102 goals to date.

Their discipline also suffered, with Jeremain Lens, Dries Mertens and Erik Pieters all being suspended.

They were still in the race when they met Ajax in mid-April, but a 3-2 loss to their great rivals saw them fall five points behind.

Twente Enschede went undefeated in their first nine matches but also struggled after the winter break, going winless in eight matches and sacking coach Steve McClaren.

Feyenoord and Vitesse Arnhem, who are likely to finish in third and fourth positions, were outsiders for the title but competed strongly thanks to the efforts of strikers Graziano Pelle and Wilfried Bony.

Ivorian Bony leads the scoring charts with 31 goals, despite missing three matches for Vitesse due to the African Cup of Nations, two of which his side lost, while Italian Pelle has notched up 26 strikes.

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