Ajax defeat Panathinaikos

The crowd, not as big as last year at the Sony Amsterdam Tournament, had to wait more than fifty minutes for the first goal in the match between hosts Ajax and Greek champions Panathinaikos. But itwas worth the wait. Ajax ran away to 3-0 before almost reluinqishing the advantage, but coach Ronald Koeman was fairly staisfied with the eventual 3-2 win.

Sunday, when Ajax play Arsenal and the Amsterdam ArenA will be sold out, Koeman will field a team that will look more like his intended starting line up thanin the match against the Greeks. ,,I have a team in my head with which I want to play during the season'', said the Ajax coach.

The internationals who played at Euro 2004 could not play more than 45 minutes on friday. Koeman intends to give them more time on the pitch on Sunday against English champions Arsenal.

Koeman was mainly happy about the second half. ,,The pace was to slow in the first half'', said Koeman. ,,After halftime it was better and the result was a great goal."

Koeman brought on Maxwell, Grygera, Ibrahimovic and Sneijder for Heitinga, Galásek, Pienaar and Sneijder after 45 minutes.

Wesley Sonck laid the foundation for the first goal. The Belgian, operating behind striker Ibrahimovic in the second half, freed Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a brilliant back-heel pass. The Swede received it, turned and hit home beautifully. Nine minutes later Ibrahimovic set up Sonck. His effort was only half stopped by goalkeeper Galinovic and Sonck was in the right place for Ajax's second goal. In the 64th minute Ibrahimovic sent Obodai away with a deep touch and the Ghanese midfielder was brought down in the box. Sonck put away the spot kick: 3-0.

,,But Panathinaikos came too close", Koeman said. Epalle's shot went in off Maxwell's body after careless defending by Julien Escudé. And goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont erred six minutes before the end, giving Konstantinou an opportunity to make it 3-2.

Ajax and Panathinaikos are now numbers one and two in the tournament table. Ajax have six points (three for the win and a point for each goal), before the Greek team (two points for the goals). Arsenal and River Plate each have one point after their goalless draw.