Loss with grave consequences

Loss with grave consequences

Ajax will not play in the Champions League next season. That is the outcome of the penultimate match day, in which FC Twente defeated AZ and Ajax lost by 4-0 at Sparta Rotterdam.

The race for second place in the league table would be decided next week, when Ajax host FC Twente; that is what everybody expected. But a disastrous afternoon for Ajax in Rotterdam combined with a Twente win against champions AZ, made sure that the race was over a week earlier. FC Twente will play in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.

,,This was a very painful afternoon”, coach Marco van Basten concluded. ,,Of course I ask myself all kinds of questions after this defeat. How in God's name is it possible that we cannot defeat Sparta when we have to? I had much faith in a good result, but again the team seemed scared. We did not succeed in getting the team ready. That is very annoying and surprising.”

Ajax began the match reasonably well and had the majority of possession. But Sparta started to smell their chances and took the initiative. The home side took the lead in the 41st minute through Edouard Duplan. In the final minute of the half, Sparta went up 2-0. Joshua John fired from distance, Kenneth Vermeer saved but Yuri Rose scored in the rebound.

Urby Emanuelson began the second half in place of Dario Cvitanich. When 15 minutes later the score had not changed, Van Basten brought on Siem de Jong for Vurnon Anita. And in an all-or-nothing attempt to create something, forward Leonardo replaced defender Gregory van der Wiel with twenty minutes to play. In the 76th minute all Ajax's hopes came to an end when Oleguer was given a red card after he had brought down the quicker Duplan. A minute later Joshua John made it 3-0. In added time Ayodele Adeleye headed in the 4-0.

Ajax need to win at least one point in the final match of the season, against Twente, to stay in third place. PSV are three points behind, but have a better goal difference. The team to finish in third place has to play one less qualifying round in the Europa League, the successor of the UEFA Cup.

Oleguer (red card) and Luis Suarez (ninth yellow card of the season) will be suspended for the match against FC Twente.