Alkmaar march on, Ajax falter
© AFP

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.