Alkmaar march on, Ajax falter

Ajax, beaten for the second time in eight days, allowed Alkmaar to seize the initiative at the head of the Dutch first division.

Marco van Basten's men fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Heerenveen on Saturday and are now nine points behind Alkmaar, who took advantage of the Amsterdam giants' slip-up by winning 2-0 at Sparta Rotterdam.

With 50 points to Ajax's 41, Louis van Gaal's Alkmaar look well-placed to claim their first Dutch league crown since 1981. Should they take the title, Alkmaar would succeed PSV Eindhoven, who won 3-0 at De Graafschap, but who are 15 points off the lead in fifth place.