Adrie Koster looked back on his debut as Ajax's head coach with honesty. Ajax - NEC (0-0) did not bring what he had hoped for. ,,This is disappointing.’’
The experienced coach, and with him everybody involved with Ajax on and off the pitch, experienced a disappointing evening in the Amsterdam ArenA. ,,It was not good, that was obvious’’, Koster said. Henk ten Cate's successor was even startled by the execution by his players. ,,The first half, we backpedalled too much and the midfield played too deep. There was very little space up front.''
Ajax escaped after fourteen minutes when Maarten Stekelenburg saved a penalty by Rutger Worm. It was the third time this season the goalkeeper stopped a spot kick. Typical for the disappointing match was that Stekelenburg had to be taken off at halftime with a seemingly severe hand injury. The goalkeeper appears to have broken two fingers. Dennis Gentenaar replaced him in the second half.
Without Stekelenburg and Jaap Stam (taken off halfway due to illness), Ajax could not set things right in the second half either. With his two mainstays unable to carry on, Koster lost two tactical substitutions. Eventually, Luis Suarez was brought on later than planned. Albert Luque, at times on good form, even played a full match. The forward who had just returned from an injury, was scheduled to play only half a match.
Ajax had a hanful of chances and semi-chances in the second half. Klaas Jan Huntelaar had the biggest opportunity to give Koster three points in his debut match, but the striker missed my an inch. As a possible reason for the pale performance by his team, Koster mentioned fatigue. Some players did not return to the ArenA from their national teams until Friday, a day before the match.
,,NEC have won a point, we have lost two’’, was Koster's painful conclusion of the evening.