Goals against Groningen good for confidence

The match in the quarter final of the Amstel Cup against FC Groningen was a good opportunity for coach Ronald Koeman to play some different players. It was good for Ajax's confidence that Zlatan and Boukhari scored en route to a 4-1 victory. Feyenoord is the opponent in the semifinal, in De Kuip on April 16.

Although Ronald Koeman did value the quarter-final match against FC Groningen, Ajax wants to retain the Cup, the coach chose to rest a few of his regulars. Trabelsi was allowed to enjoy fatherhood, he became a first-time daddy on Monday. Pasanen, Galásek and Maxwell did not play from the beginning either. Rafael van der Vaart returned in the squad after being sidelined with an injury for three months. He started on the bench. Koeman: ,,We have a schedule with six matches in nineteen days so it is wise to rest some players. The guys who replaced them did a good job today. Especially Yakubu played very well", Koeman praised his Ghanese player.

Because Pasanen was rested, Bergdølmo was back in the starting line up. Next to Chivu in the centre of defence, with Nigel de Jong next to him on the right and John O'Brien on the left. Yakubu played just before the central defenders. Pienaar and Sneijder manned the flanks in midfield and Zlatan and Boukhari played up front. Witschge had a free role.

After the first six minutes, in which Groningen was occasionally threatening, Ajax took over. The match was played mainly around Groningen goalkeeper Jelle ten Rouwelaar. Just as in the match against Vitesse Ajax had chance after chance. But just as on Sunday, Boukhari and Ibrahimovic were unlucky with their finishes.

After 31 minutes Ajax scored. Sneijder set up the attack, comined with Boukhari and struck impeccably. It meant the first official goal in Ajax 1 for the youngster, who was promoted to the first team after the winter break.

It lasted until the 50th minute before Ajax could double their lead. Witschge crossed from the left and Ibrahimovic headed it home. The Swedish striker was overjoyed with his goal. He kept looking at the big screens for the repeat.

But he had little time to enjoy his goal as three minutes later Groningen got a goal back. Nobody had spotted Tuhuteru, who ran into the box and found substitute Jordi Hoogstrate. He made it 2-1.

After that Boukhari gained some more confidence. Bergdølmo passed to Seedorf touched to Ibrahimovic. The Swede stepped over the ball, thus allowing Boukhari to score, 3-1.

After 65 minutes Koeman brought on Rafael van der Vaart and Stefano Seedorf. For Van der Vaart it were his first minutes of first-team action since December. He played cleverly, but did not manage to score. ,,Wanting to score is part of his game", Koeman analysed. ,,He is also the most dangerous in the box."

With seven minutes to play, referee Van Egmond awarded Groningen a penalty after a foul by Nigel de Jong. Martin Drent fired, but Bogdan Lobont saved it.

Two minutes into added time, it was the home side that struck again. Ibrahimovic benefitted from a mistake by Van Gessel and the striker made it 4-1.

Koeman: ,,Those two goals by Zlatan were important and Boukhari's was too. I hope they gained some confidence and that they won't need so many chances in the future."