Ajax need miracle

Ajax need miracle

Ajax need a miracle in the return match in Amsterdam to advance to the last sixteen in the UEFA Cup. In Germany, Werder Bremen were too strong for the Amsterdam side: 3-0.

Henk ten Cate's team was the home club's equal for a quarter of the match. Reduced to ten players, Ajax were overmatched. The Ajax-supporters have to hope for a miracle in the home match on Thursday 22 February, for Ajax to advance to the next round.

Olaf Lindenbergh was shown yellow cards in the 21st and 24th minute, and Ajax had to play the remainder of the match with ten players. That was too much to ask from a team that already had defenders Emanuelson, Vermaelen and Grygera on the injury list and Ogararu suspended. Edgar Davids was not allowed to play as he had already played in Europe with Tottenham Hotspur this season. With this many players missing, coach Ten Cate inserted junior Mitchell Donald in the lineup, which meant the youngster's debut in Ajax 1. After Lindenbergh's dismissal, another young talent was brought on. Vurnon Anita, 17 years old, came on for Tom de Mul after 27 minutes. Although Werder Bremen were occasionally dangerous, Ajax made it to halftime without any further damage.

,,Playing with ten against such a strong side costs a lot of strength’’, said Ten Cate. ,,The first half really drained our energy.’’

The visitors could not keep a clean slate for long in the second half. Three minutes into the second part of the match, Mertesacker scored from a corner: 1-0. ,,The first goal came too soon’’, said Ten Cate. ,,We may have had more chance if we could have kept it 0-0 longer.''

Six minutes after Mertesacker's goal, it was Naldo's turn to score, albeit with help from the linesman. Anita seemed to clear the defender's header from the line, but the assistant referee decidedly signalled for a goal: the ball was believed to have completely passed the goalline: 2-0. Ten Cate: ,,The match was over from that point on.’’ Hedwiges Maduro could have given Ajax some hope for the return when he ended up with the ball after a free kick, but the midfielder hesitated too long.

Torsten Frings made it 3-0 when he fired in the ball after a quick counter attack. After that, the home side had some more chances to make things worse for Ajax, but fortunately the balls bounced off the crossbar and post, or Maarten Stekelenburg saved.

,,I am not saying that we have no chance'', said Ten Cate about the return match in eight days. ,,But it's obvious that it will be difficult. Also because we have to play without Gabri and Lindenbergh, who will be suspended. Maybe we have to add two more youth players to the squad.'' Ten Cate praised the youngsters who were there this time. ,,Vurnon and Mitchell have done well. I made them both a big compliment after the match.’’