Ajax make it difficult for themselves

Ajax make it difficult for themselves

Ajax got off to a bad start of the qualifying round of the Champions League. Despite the many chances for the home side, Slavia Prague won the first leg in the ArenA: 0-1. The return in Prague is in two weeks.

Huntelaar misses from the spot.
Huntelaar misses from the spot.

It was the match around which the whole preseason had been built. The past six weeks had all been about the qualifying matches for the Champions League: the friendlies, the Tournament and even the match for the Johan Cruijff Shield. And exactly the one match that mattered, was lost. The disappointment was understandably great, but coach Henk ten Cate still saw chances. ,,We are a bit down now, but it's not over yet. If we would have finshed the chances today, we could have gone to Prague feeling very good.’’

That Cate made a good point, since Ajax, without ever reaching peak form, played a good match. Partly thanks to the excellent debut by Luis Suárez, the home side created chances right away. After only eleven minutes John Heitinga hit the post. Suárez, who played up front together with Klaas Jan Huntelaar, could not put the rebound in the back of the net. After fifteen minutes, the new forward had another good opportunity. Suárez missed from up close. Huntelaar then almost scored from a free kick, but goalkeeper Martin Vaniak did well to tap the ball over the crossbar. After the third chance for Suárez (he freed himself and shot on Vaniak) the teams went into the dressing rooms at 0-0.

Suárez was also the most dangerous Ajax player in the second half. After an hour he was brought down and Ajax were given a penalty. Huntelaar took it, but delivered a bad shot. It was still 0-0 and the old law of football applied again: if you don't score yourself, then.... And indeed, fifteen minutes from the end, referee Meyer awarded Slavia a penalty. Stanislav Vlcek broke out and was lightly touched by Urby Emanuelson. David Kalivoda converted the spot kick: 0-1. Ajax pressed on, got the chances but not the equaliser. Even with substitute Ismael Urzaiz, who also made his debut for Ajax, on for Suárez nothing changed.

Ajax now have to make up for this loss in Prague in two weeks. ,,I believe in us’’, Ten Cate said. ,,Today we did not even play that well and we had seven chances. In two weeks we are a little further and Suárez will have had more time with us.’’