The late knock-out goal by Fernandao was like a sledgehammer for Frank de Boer. The Ajax coach, visibly disappointed, looked back on a nerve-wracking evening of football in Turkey. In actual fact, the entire day had been difficult. The news of Johan Cruijff’s lung cancer cast a long shadow over the match day.
Leading up to the EL duel, De Boer also discussed the news of Johan Cruijff’s health problems. “We are completely empathetic and supportive of Johan. He’s going through a difficult time. It’s terrible news”, said De Boer in the press room of the Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü. “Hopefully he’ll beat this. Every Ajacied is completely sympathetic with Johan”.
Thursday’s match ended in disappointment as well. “We started off badly in the match. We were nervous. After that, we shook it off and were in control”, said De Boer, visibly upset – but in fighting spirit – about the loss in Istanbul. Control notwithstanding, Ajax created very few opportunities. “That’s what it’s about, of course: created opportunities. There weren’t really any big chances. The second half was similar. Of course Fenerbahçe, with its strength and height, is dangerous in standard situations. The Turks have the individual assets to play it out. It’s bitter that we’re here empty-handed. Now we need to win the next match, because then we’ll be second. But it won’t be that easy.”
After this round of play, Ajax is in third spot in pool A of the UEFA Europa League. “Our chances have shrunk. But if we win in two weeks, which won’t be easy, we’ll be in second place. Then it’s wide open again. We need to be realistic. Losing or tying the game will make things very tough.”