Ajax gets a goal away, but loses by a hair

Ajax gets a goal away, but loses by a hair

Ajax suffered its first Europa League loss on Thursday.  In a tough match at FC Copenhagen, Kasper Dolberg scored, but the Danish opponent won the match, 2-1.

Coach Peter Bosz had a tough puzzle to solve at the start, but on a different line than expected.  For the suspended Joël Veltman and Davinson Sánchez, he had appointed the logical next in line, Kenny Tete and Matthijs de Ligt.  Bosz also solved the questions raised by the injured Nick Viergever and Jairo Riedewald, by giving the nod to Viergever, the more experienced player in European matches.  The crux against Copenhagen would be at midfield.  The coach hadn’t selected Hakim Ziyech (exhaustion), but the young Donny van de Beek.  No changes on offense, so business as usual with Bertrand Traoré, Kasper Dolberg, and Amin Younes.

Despite its many good intentions, Ajax experienced a dramatic start.  From kick-off, Copenhagen was quick in coming out of the starting blocks.  If you weren’t in your seat at kick-off, then you missed the first goal.  Rasmus Falk received a pass, unhindered, and scored into the far corner.  Only 27 seconds had elapsed.

Stunned silence at Parken Stadion
Copenhagen was in a position to sit back comfortably and rely on their disciplined 4-4-2, but they did anything but.  Ajax was bull-dozered at every turn and could consider itself lucky to be down only by 1-0 after thirty minutes.  The home team’s finishing can only be called terrible after missed opportunities by Santander, Toutouh and Cornelius.  This was in stark contrast to Ajax, which brought Parken Stadium to stunned silence in the 32nd minute.  Kasper Dolberg swiftly rounded off a clever attack from the right via Traoré and Klaassen.  It was indeed the young Dane who achieved something that no opponent has been able to do since August 2016 – to score at FC Copenhagen.

Since it had been so long since Copenhagen had suffered a goal against at home, the question was how would they react now?  Would the hosts lose track, or would they proceed with Scandinavian coolness, for which they are known?  They rallied somewhat.  Toutouh scored, but several of his team mates were offside at that moment.  Thus Ajax retreated to the locker rooms with a 1-1 score on the board.

New energy
Ajax started the second half with much more energy than the first.  Bosz’s team applied much more pressure, making it difficult for Copenhagen to deal with them.  Traoré showed his class several times, which led to opportunities for Van de Beek, who found the keeper in his way.  But despite Ajax’s more attacking and better play, Copenhagen is the team that took the lead again.  In their first real attack after halftime, Cornelius sent a header into the goal in the 59th minute, 2-1.

Suspension Klaassen 
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Bosz substituted Traoré and Van de Beek.  David Neres and Hakim Ziyech came in for them.  Shortly after they came in, Lasse Schöne gave an emergency signal.  After Viergever and Tete, he was the third Ajacied to earn a yellow card in a short time.  Ajax did everything they could do avoid their first Europa League loss, pushing hard in the final minutes.  They seemed to succeed, as Dolberg scored the 2-2 goal.  But the Portuguese referee disqualified the goal due to a foul by the striker.  This angered Klaassen, who also received a yellow card for his troubles.  This will mean a suspension for the captain, forcing him to miss next week’s opportunity for his team to earn a spot in the quarter-finals.