‘Disappointed with the first half’

‘Disappointed with the first half’

Although the final result would suggest otherwise, Frank de Boer was more positive about Ajax’s performance last year in Camp Nou than this year’s. The 4-0 score back then wasn’t a good reflection of Ajax’s strong play for one half. On Tuesday evening, it was the other way around after a 3-1 defeat. “After the break I saw players going for it, but that’s what you want to see happening from the first second.”

Obviously, the statistic was good. Ajax is the first team to score in Camp Nou this season. Together with Paris Saint-Germain, the Dutch champions are responsible for the first three goals scored against Barcelona in their first official eleven matches of the season. For a short while, Ajax had one point within reach, but, considering the match as a whole, that would have been nothing short of a miracle. Especially considering the first half, De Boer couldn’t contain his discontent. “I told them to respect their opponent but to play our own game. We should have shown what we are capable of, head-on, both as a team and individually. Unfortunately, that’s not what I saw in the first 45 minutes. I was very disappointed and upset about that. I told the players that during the break, in no uncertain terms.”

The difference between this and last year’s matches was big. “We played better then. Before the break, we almost had more possession than Barcelona, and just as many opportunities”, said De Boer. “This time, it was totally different. Of course, our midfield was completely different than last year’s. And the midfield often sets the rhythm for the team. And that wasn’t great today. In addition, our left back and left winger weren’t with us last year. And we missed Thulani Serero and Nicolai Boilesen, two guys with a lot of Champions League experience. But none of that is an excuse.”

De Boer was more positive about Ajax’s performance in the second half. “After the break, I saw the players go for it. We stood up straight. That was also partly due to the fact that Barcelona shifted to a much lower gear at one point. And then you see that you can catch up sometimes. But I would have preferred to see that attitude from the first second. In the end, with a bit of luck, we might have scored the tying goal. That’s the feeling you get in the locker room afterwards. But we did manage to get a decent result at the end. In that, we succeeded.”