'Fourth place best we could do'

'Fourth place best we could do'

The Ajax U17s ended the ABN AMRO Future Cup in fourth place.  Frank Peereboom’s team lost the consolation finals to Barcelona, 0-2.  This is the same score of their defeat at the hands of Anderlecht, who will meet Arsenal in the finals.

Pereboom felt that the loss was justified.  “I found Barcelona better than us, both collectively and individually.  Despite their fatigue, they passed with ease.  We had more difficulty with that.  We weren’t able to make good on our opportunities today.  And that does something t you, mentally.  When you do score, you can catch up and that gives you energy."

The fact that Ajax and Barcelona met today was significant because of their history.  Last Thursday, Johan Cruijff, the legendary number fourteen who caused a sensation with both teams, passed away. Cruijff was mourned globally, but the passing of the best Dutch football player of all time has made an especially deep impact at Ajax and Barcelona.

No dream final

Ajax and Barcelona would have loved to honour Cruijff by meeting in the finals, but things went differently on Monday morning.  Ajax met a superior Anderlecht, and as a result failed to reach the finals for the first time in the Future Cup’s 7 year existence.   Barcelona was defeated by Arsenal in penalty kicks.

What could have played in Ajax’s favour at the outset was that the team had had slightly longer to rest after their semi-final match.  Barcelona had to make do with less than one hour.  This was reason enough for coach Enrique Alvares to change up his squad.  Peereboom also made the necessary changes.  Five starting players from the lost semi-final against Anderlecht remained.

The first half didn’t bring many fireworks.  The conditions didn’t help, either.  A bitter wind blew over the Toekomst.  Ajax had a slight advantage and needled the opponent twice thanks to centre forward Martijn Kaars.  But the centre forward was unable to make good on a precise pass from Deabeas Owusu Sekyere, and later, on a cross-pass, he reached the ball slightly later than keeper Rojas.

Empty tank

Ajax’s tank seemed empty by the second half.  The Catalans took the lead in the first minute, via a goal by Juan Fernande.  This deficit was difficult for Ajax.  Barcelona seemed poised to double its slim lead, but keeper Tijs te Duits was able to fix an error in the build-up with a great save.  The score reached 0-2 in the 41st minute.  The danger after a sharp Spanish outbreak seemed to be extinguished, but from the edge of the box, Edgar scored in the aftermath.

Ajax went hunting for the 1-2, but one goal to save the team’s honour wasn’t in the cards.   Daishawn Redan couldn’t make good on his three big opportunities.  Barcelona also squandered several good opportunities.

The Ajacieds thus ended, disappointingly, in fourth place.  Peereboom said that this was also ‘the best the team could do’.  “We rightfully lost against teams that were better and therefore I feel that we ended in the place we belong.  We need to learn from this.  That’s also what this tournament is meant for.”

Score summary: 31. Fernande 0-1, 41. Edgar 0-2

Ajax U17: Te Duits, Ter Heide, Bakker, Hoogenhout, Familia Castillo, Ekkelenkamp, Van der Linde (39. Lang), El Azrak (39. Antonic), Nunnely, Kaars, Owusu Sekyere (39. Redan)