The Haarlem Stadion will be full for the first time since their reincarnation. Ajax will visit for the first time in years. HFC Haarlem will be back in the national newspapers for footballing reasons for the first time since pre-2010, when the original old club had the life support machine turned off on them. De Roodbroeken play in the Fifth Round of the KNVB-beker tomorrow in a game many Haarlem fans could not have thought possible eight seasons ago, reports Nick Dekkers of NU.nl
Despite their shock defeat on Wednesday night, their first in 16 matches, Darwen’s team sit seven points clear at the top of Topklasse A. In their eighteen league games they have scored a staggering 67 goals, and have racked up a further 19 in the three cup rounds played so far. After kicking off with a 5-0 hammering of Huizen, Haarlem were able to get revenge on JVC, the team that pipped them to promotion on the final day of last season. They beat the Eerste Division strugglers 9-2 having been 7-0 after half an hour in a performance pundits called “staggering”. The Fourth Round drew them against Eredivisie side Heerenveen, and having been 3-0 down they fought back to take the tie 5-4 after extra time. It has been a stunning season to date.
But can they beat the legend of Ajax? Surely not has to be the sensible vote. Destroying all in front of them in the third tier is one thing, but beating the greatest club in the land is another. If they are to do achieve the impossible a lot will be expected from their young goal machine, Thiemo Vanmaris, who has an incredible 77 goals in 81 appearances for the club, including 27 this season. He oozes the class of a Van Basten as he continues to break record after record in his third full season at Haarlem. He will be ably assisted by his striker partners La Rocca and Maletic, who have added another 21 goals between them.
Haarlem’s success this season has not been purely about their incredible goal tally. Defensively they have been much improved, having conceded 20 goals in their 18 league games, a vast improvement on 32 at the same point last season. This would appear to be down to a more controlled approach in the style of play employed by Darwen. His first three seasons at the club were gung-ho attack fests, but this season the side seem more patient in possession, prepared to wait for the right moment to strike. It has certainly allowed them to dominate games in a way not seen at this level for decades and with only half the league season gone they have already broken the league goal scoring record. No longer are Haarlem there to be hit on the counter as Janzen has the back three organised in a deeper line.
If Haarlem were to beat Ajax they would dream of an away tie in the quarter finals to allow them to capitalise financially on their incredible run. In many ways it is great that this game is to be played at their famous old ground, which has not changed much in the last 50 years, but it is widely known that the club’s president would have preferred a game at the Amsterdam Arena, where Haarlem would have picked up at least €250,000 in gate receipts.
There is no way Haarlem will beat Ajax, but then if you had asked me in 2010 whether we would ever see Haarlem play again….
Kom op Haarlem!
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