Ajax have set a good step toward the next round of the UEFA Cup. The side won the second match of the group stage by defeating MSK Zilina from Slovakia by 1-0.
When Ajax lost to Aston Villa in Birmingham two weeks ago, the object of the home match against MSK Zilina was relatively simple: Ajax had to win to stay alive in the group stage of the UEFA Cup. But as simple as that sounded, it was not easy this Thursday. That was partly due to the way Zilina played in Amsterdam, but also because Ajax played in a low pace.
,,The first half was sub-par", said coach Marco van Basten. ,,That happened because we played in a too-low pace and we did not move the ball. That gave them time to organise.'' Ajax still got their chances. Rasmus Lindgren fired from distance a few times, but goalkeeper Pernis saved. Luis Suarez also gave the Slovakian defence trouble, but he could not reach a teammate, or the opponents cleared just in time. However, three minutes before halftime, the Uruguayan forward scored. Jan Vertonghen fired from distance, and Pernis had to let go of the ball. Suarez reacted the quickest and made it 1-0.
Van Basten still was not happy and he made some changes at halftime. Siem de Jong was replaced by Kennedy. The Swede went to the right wing and Suarez went on to play behind striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar. ,,The second half was better, with more variation'', Van Basten said. With some more luck, it could have been decided earlier. Huntelaar headed the ball onto the post and Suarez fired it against the lower part of the crossbar; the ball almost went over the goalline.
With Ajax missing too many chances, it remained close. Luckily, Kenneth Vermeer did a good job in the second half. Ajax proved to be virtually unbeatable in the Amsterdam ArenA. The side haven't allowed a goal on home ground in 747 minutes.
Aston Villa are in the lead in the group, ater defeating Slavia Prague. Ajax and HSV are in joint second place. Ajax's next UEFA Cup match is on 27 November in Hamburg.