Hope becomes reality

Hope becomes reality

Ajax got what the team had hoped for in Zagreb: a victory (0-1) without allowing goal. Dennis Rommedahl's goal may prove to be invaluable in the retun leg against Dinamo Zagreb in two weeks.

Ajax's starting lineup left little doubt about the team's intentions. Under the circumstances, many injuries, Ajax preferred conservatism above an attacking style. The mission was clear; prevent Croatia's champion from scoring and hope for chances on the other side for the forwards Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Dennis Rommedahl.

Ajax succeeded in their mission. Rommedahl's goal gives Ajax a good starting point for the return in Amsterdam in two weeks. After a little over an hour the Dane went around Dinamo's goalkeeper Georg Koch and scored, assisted by Huntelaar.

Ajax kept the 'holy' clean slate thanks to good defensive work and some excellent saves by Maarten Stekelenburg. Gregory van der Wiel was also instrumental in shutting down the home side. From the heart of Ajax's defence, supported by the solid Jaap Stam, the youngster proved that age does not matter and he made very few mistakes.

Luis Suarez replaced Dennis Rommedahl in the closing stages. The forward had the chance to widen the margin when he sent a cross to Huntelaar, who headed it just wide. With Albert Luque on for Huntelaar in the final minutes, Ajax played out the match and can now begin the return leg in Amsterdam with confidence.