,,Actually, this was Young Ajax playing in the Arena tonight", coach Ronald Koeman said after the narrow victory over Roda JC (1-0). Ajax's coach was faced with so many injuries that he had to field a very young team in the cup match.
Ajax and Roda JC faced each other in Amsterdam for the sixth time during the Amstel Cup. Ajax never lost and had to allow only two goals. In the last cup tie at home, Ajax beat the team from Limburg 5-0. That was not to be this time, although in the opening stage of the game it seemed that way for a while.
Coach Ronald Koeman started with the same eleven that began in the league match against Willem II in Tilburg, where Ajax won 0-6 last Sunday. It meant that goalkeeper Lobont and midfielder Wesley Sneijder played their first match for Ajax 1 in the Arena.
Sneijder, the young midfielder, controlled 'his position' as a veteran. He dished out tricky passes and occasionally helped out Jelle van Damme at left back.
Just like in the match against Willem II, Ajax was quick to open the score. Zlatan seemed surprised that he was not ruled offside, but kept his cool. He went at goalkeeper Roorda and calmly made it 1-0 in the eleventh minute. Again Ajax tried to widen the gap quickly, but Roda's defence proved more solid than that of Willem II.
Zlatan had to come off in the first half, troubled by a groin injury. ,,We will have to wait and see'', said Koeman, who already has more than enough injured players. Mido replaced Zlatan as the team's striker.
Ajax was not the same team as in the first twenty minutes in the second half. Koeman: ,,We did not create any danger after halftime. We had to be aware toward the end. Roda got some chances, like the one with Anastasiou. You can see it coming. Defensively, I thought we did well, but in the second half I was not so happy with our offence.''
Koeman tried to change something in the offence by bringing on Seedorf for Maxwell. Seedorf went to play behind Mido and Sneijder moved to the left flank. Galasek had to neutralise Sergio, but the Brazilian went through occasionally, only to find Chivu, Pasanen or Lobont on his way. Nothing but praise for the defenders from Koeman: ,,Maybe Bergdolmo will be fit again for the match against Feyenoord, but this defence has kept a clean slate twice in a row, so I see little reason to change anything. "
Little went right on the offensive end. Mido looked too often for his own chance, where a pass to Van der Meyde would have created more danger. Koeman: ,,If you see this match, there is a big difference between Zlatan and Mido. That is why Zlatan starts and Mido doesn't. I hope Mido can live with that and will do his utmost to go through the development that Zlatan went through. Now he is still too opportunistic."
Koeman was mainly relieved by the win. ,,It is good for the morale, especially in the light of all the injuries. If you see who we miss..."
The coach looked ahead to the match against Feyenoord on Sunday. ,,It is a very important game. If we win, Feyenoord won't trouble us anymore.''