Ajax return to Amsterdam on Sunday after spending a week in Portugal. The training camp in the Algarve was closed off with a loss in a friendly against VfB Stuttgart (2-3).
The only friendly match that Ajax play in the short winter break was a test of what can be expected of the team in the second half of the season. After an intensive week of training, the friendly against the number ten of the German Bundesliga in the Estádio da Nora was useful. ,,We played okay, especially after a hard training camp’’, coach Marco van Basten said. ,,It was positive that we constantly tried to attack. But we were 'bothered' often by offside. In possession we did fine, although we could at times have been sharper.’’ Toby Alderweireld was the most surprising starter for Ajax. The Belgian defender from the youth academy was rewarded for his good efforts during the training camp. He played a strong match as central defender. Alderweireld also thanked his starting position to injuries for Thomas Vermaelen (achilles tendon) and Jan Vertonghen (bruised foot). Gregory van der Wiel was also sidelined for the match, with a mild ankle injury. Bruno Silva played as right back in his place. Rasmus Lindgren was kept out of the match too. ,,Toby has done well all week. And in this match he also played well’’, Van Basten said. Alderweireld was understandably pleased with the developments. ,,It was a good match and a great training camp. A week in which I learnt many new things. That's logical when you train with and against guys like Suarez and Sulejmani. It was tough, but I feel I am getting better.’’ After the winter break, Van Basten will announce who is going to be the first goalkeeper at the start of the second half of the season. Kenneth Vermeer was on goal in the first half against Stuttgart, and was little to blame for the three goals Ajax conceded in the half. The goalkeeper could only watch how Martin Lanig, Julian Schieber and Thomas Hitzlsperger scored. After halftime it was Maarten Stekelenburg's turn. The Holland goalkeeper returned to action after months of being injured on his shoulder. ,,It went well, and it was great to be able to play in a match again’’, Stekelenburg said. ,,My shoulder felt good again.’’ Stekelenburg waisted few words on the 'battle of the goalkeepers'. ,,I'm assuming that I will be on goal after the break.’’ Luis Suarez scored for Ajax in the first half. The forward was in the line of the shot that Dario Cvitanich released. The little tap that Suarez gave the ball was enough to beat VfB Stuttgart's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. In the second half Ajax fared better against the Germans. Cvitanich headed the ball in after an hour: 2-3. The Argentinian striker also scored another time, right before the end, but his goal was disallowed for offside. ,,It was definitely not offside’’, Cvitanich said. ,,In the first half they punished us for our moments of carelessness'', Van Basten said. ,,Defensively, we made a few errors. We let them score too easlily. But looking back, this was a very good week for us.’’