Ajax A1ended the group phase of the NextGen Series on a sour note. At de Toekomst sports complex, Ajax’s top youth team lost 0-2 to Rosenborg BK, who was already eliminated from the rest of the tournament. Ajax A1 has already ensured themselves of a spot in the quarterfinals, but as number 2 in the pool, they will face their FC Barcelona counterparts away. Group winner Aston Villa will meet Olympique Marseille at home.
When the Ajax and Rosenborg players sat down at 9p.m. for a festive dinner, the Norwegians’ faces were clearly happier than the Ajax players’. The disqualified Rosenborg’s away win ensured that they were offered a winning dinner. But the Ajax players are the ones who have the last laugh, since they will continue to play in the NextGen Series after the winter break, unlike the Norwegians. However, that fact didn’t seem to cheer them up. After all, a loss is still a loss.
From the start, A1 knew that a win would earn them the top spot in pool 3. Their two point difference with leader Aston Villa could be made up, if they defeated Rosenborg. In that case, they would have held the number 1 position and met Olympique Marseille at home. Now, ending in the number 2 position, they will play an away game at FC Barcelona, who won pool 1. “Of course, at match like that in Barcelona against their U-19 team is a fantastic experience for the guys, but it was our aim to win the group. Especially since only one match will be played, the home advantage becomes quite significant. We don’t have that advantage now”, said coach Fred Grim afterwards.
The Ajax A1 line up was a good example of how important the junior equivalent is compared to the UEFA Champions League. The contrast between Davy Klaassen and Kenny Tate (Ajax B2 defender) spoke volumes about the difference in experience. The 18 year old captain of Ajax A1 has been the most celebrated man at de Toekomst in recent days after his successful debut with Ajax 1. Exactly one week after his debut in the Champions League against Olympique Lyon, he was once again, with Lesley de Sa, among his own team mates on Tuesday evening.
Before the break, Klaassen, with Rowendy Schoop and Ouasim Bouy had the best shots at a goal. The difference between the teams was big in the first forty five minutes, but the absence of goals ensured that the match started to get more and more difficult for Ajax. Shortly after the break, Schoop, on a pass from Bouy, had one last opportunity, but the Norwegian keeper made the save. This appeared to be a turning point in the match, because Rosenborg took the lead a few minutes later. With help from an own goal from Fabian Spokslede, the visitors pulled ahead. “Fabian was making a last attempt to make the save, so he doesn’t deserve to be blamed”, said Grim. “Before the goal, things weren’t going well. That’s what we need to discuss in the upcoming days”, said the coach, referring to the other players’ weak intervention.
The strong first half – with recurring good plays from midfielder Youssef Fennich – was quickly forgotten after the goal. Especially since the Norwegians didn’t give anything away after their 0-1 lead. It didn’t make for an exciting game for the spectators. And it didn’t improve Ajax’s outlook on winning the game. The Norwegians, with Fredrik Midtsjø (number 10) giving an outstanding performance, fought for the win and to leave the NextGen Series with their head held high in the number 3 position of the pool. A double substitution ten minutes before time didn’t help Ajax. With fresh legs on the field, Ajax faced another goal against. Deep in extra time, Ole Gunnar Øien, on a pass from Robin Bjørnholm, brought the score to 0-2.
Ajax A1 line up: Peter Leeuwenburgh, Kenny Tete (80. Danzell Gravenberch), Fabian Sporkslede, Stefano Denswil, Mitchell Dijks, Youssef Fennich (80. Sinan Keskin), Davy Klaassen, Ouasim Bouy, Lesley de Sa, Rowendey Schoop (61. Abdel El Hasnaoui), Nick de Bondt.