'Second place is good result'
Marco van Basten's wish to finish first in Group F was not granted after the 2-2 against Slavia Prague. ,,But we can be satisfied. Second place in this group behind HSV is a good result”, the coach said.
Daley Blind made his European debut against Slavia Prague.
Van Basten and his team will closely follow the draw for the next round of the UEFA Cup on Friday at noon. Ajax will face one of the teams that come down from the Champions League. Werder Bremen, Aalborg, Girodins Bordeaux, Olympique Marseille, Shakhtar Donetsk, Fiorentina, Dynamo Kiev or Zenit St. Petersburg will be Ajax's next opponent in Europe.
Van Basten was not very happy with the first half against Slavia Prague. Despite the quick goal by Jan Vertonghen - he headed in a corner after only three minutes - Ajax had a difficult time against the Czech team. ,,We began well and then you expect a lot'', Van Basten said. ,,But Slavia made it difficult to set up an attack. They are physically very strong and their midfield is very dynamic.”
That was shown in two moments in transition. Jaroslav Cerny was allowed to fire from the edge of the box in the thirteenth minute and the ball went behind Kenneth Vermeer off the crossbar. Five minutes before halftime, Slavia struck again. Marek Jarolim touched the ball, but so did Gregory van der Wiel, and Vermeer could not save it: 1-2.
Ajax had enough chances to score a goal themselves. Luis Suarez just missed from a good free kick by Urby Emanuelson and Siem de Jong saw his attempt saved by goalkeeper Divis.
Van Basten brought on Daley Blind for Emanuelson at halftime. It was Blind's European debut. ,,I was not happy with our midfield. Slavia were better in transition and so I brought on Blind.” The young midfielder did well in the second half, said Van Basten. ,,Daley gave us more control. That was also due to the fact that Slavia had spent much energy in the first half.”
Ajax did not create any real chances, however. Slavia Prague dug in and tried it with counter attacks. Zdenek Senkerik came close to scoring on two occasions, but he did not connect.
Suarez was the most dangerous Ajax player. The Uruguayan forward went through the Slavia defence and was brought down by goalkeeper Divis. Referee Sten Kaldma waved off Suarez' claims for a penalty. But in the closing stages, the referee awarded Ajax a penalty after all. It was again Suarez who went down in the box. The forward chipped the ball beautifully in the back of the net. It meant that Ajax were second in the group. ,,We were already certain to go through, but this is a good result", Van Basten said.