Being disqualified from the UEFA Europa League was like a sledgehammer blow for Frank de Boer. Realistic, but mostly disappointed, Ajax’s coach looked back on the undecided and fatal home game against Molde FK: 1-1.
“We knew what we needed to do. Win. And we didn’t do that. It’s very disappointing.” Those were De Boer’s opening words at the press conference, and they spoke volumes about Ajax’s story. It was as if the Ajacied was summarizing the mood of both himself and the club. European elimination brought disappointment and disillusion to the ArenA.
De Boer gave Molde FK the respect that the Norwegian team deserved. But the coach, understandably, had more to say about his own team. Namely, what had gone wrong on Ajax’s side. “We faced a few counters because our rest defense wasn’t good. We were sometimes impatient and careless. Also, there is a reason that Molde is in first place of this group.”
Long after the final whistle had been blown, De Boer was still upset about his team’s impure play at times. As a former top defender, the coach knows exactly what is required to win international games. Purity. Against Molde, too many Ajacieds were impure in passing. “You don’t get that many chances against a team that is so well organized”, said De Boer, referring to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team. “But we had Molde by the throat in the second half. But too often, our last past just wasn’t good enough.”
De Boer referred to another European norm. “Out of 10 passes, 9 need to be good. Now we were about half and half. We need to be better if we want to win. Your last pass needs to be purer.”
When asked, De Boer looked back on the entire 2015-2016 European campaign. Ajax played its last European game of this season against Molde. For the first time since 2007-2008, Ajax is out before the winter break. “It was only against Fenerbahçe that we were the lesser team at times. Never against Molde or Celtic. But in the end, what matters is that you make it. Or that you are ready to put your heart and soul into preventing a goal against.”
De Boer referred to the disappointing home game against Celtic. Ajax let a good lead slip away in the ArenA. A costly loss of points was the result. “When you’re ahead 2-0, and against ten men to boot, you can never, never give it away. Losing in Istanbul at the last minute; that can’t happen, either. These are matches in which you need to fight for, tooth and nail. As a technical staff, we also have to learn from this.”