Ajax gain confidence but lose two points against Feyenoord

Mixed feelings prevailed among Ajax after the Classic against Feyenoord: 1-1. It was good to see that the home team were better than the rivals, but it was a pity that Ajax did not get the result to show for it. ,,I am happy with our performance", Ronald Koeman said. ,,But not with the result.''

Koeman began with Nigel de Jong, who replaced injured John O'Brien, as left back. Tomás Galásek returned to the starting line-up, but not at the expense of Steven Pienaar. Instead, Koeman fielded a team without a left winger. ,,To force Feyenoord to start their offence from their right side'', Koeman explained.

With Galásek back in the team, Ajax operated better. The Czech midfielder plugged the holes, tackled hard and frequently and coached his teammates well. Only the first ten minutes were for Feyenoord. After that, Ajax came through for the first time. By then, Steven Pienaar had been hit in the knee and the South-African had to be replaced (by Wesley Sneijder) after just seventeen minutes.

Ajax took over the match and scored the first goal in the attractive game. Again it was Mauro Rosales who did his team a huge favour. Roales, who scored twice last week in Tilburg, set up the attack on the left side and after the the ball had gone from Van der Vaart to Yannis Anastasiou, the mercurial Argentine raced in from the right and powered the ball past Gabor Babos: 1-0 after 27 minutes.

Although Feyenoord offered some resistance in the first half, it did not seem likely that Ajax would let go of the lead. Koeman again was forced to make a substitution after Gyan had hurt Nigel de Jong, who had to come off with a headwound that would require eight stitches to close. Some changes had to be made. Johnny Heitinga replaced De Jong, Maxwell went back a line and Julien Escudé moved from central defender to midfielder where he played slightly behind Galásek, Van der Vaart and Sneijder.

The visitors unexpectedly pulled alongside Ajax one minute before halftime. Dirk Kuijt had time to aim and lobbed it over goalkeeper Hans Vonk: 1-1.

Feyenoord seemed content with the draw, as the team took it easy in the second half and watched Ajax having the most posession. In referee Pieter Vink the team from Rotterdam seemd to have another ally, as he called everything against Yannis Anastasiou, who was pulled down regularly. But the referee was the only one in the stadium who only saw fouls of the dispairing but well-playing Greek striker.

When Koeman had to replace Van der Vaart, who suffered a knee injury in the first half but kept working manfully until the 67th minute, Ajax were out of creative solutions. Van der Vaart, who will miss the international match with Holland against Andorra, was replaced by Nourdin Boukhari, but the left winger was not a factor against Feyenoord.

Rosales clearly was a factor. The crowd chose him man of the match with a landslide majority and Feyenoord defender Mtiliga knows why. He must have become dizzy from all the times that Rosales went by him. But despite the fact that the right winger had the best chance of the second half, he went by his defenders and released a shot that was just stopped by Babos, there were to be no more goals. ,,Maybe all these forced substitutions played a part in the fact that the second half was of a lower level'', Koeman said. ,,We lost three internationals and I could not do anything toward the end of the match. We weren't exactly lucky with our attempts. I am happy with the team's performance but not with the result. We did, however, play better than in the past few weeks. That gives us confidence. We have to carry on like this, then we will get closer to the top positions.”

Ajax are now in fourth place, ten points behind PSV, five behind AZ and four behind Feyenoord.

Steven Pienaar will miss the 'Nelson Mandela Challenge Match', a friendly match that is played between South-Africa and Nigeria on Wednesday, due to the knee injury he sustained against Feyenoord. Rafael van der Vaart cannot play against Andorra, also on Wednesday, because of his knee injury. Nigel de Jong's participation in that match is as yet unsure, although he seemed not bothered much by his headwound after the match.