Ajax lost to AZ in the first playoff final match against AZ: 2-1. Arveladze scored in added time. But Wesley Sneijder's goal left Ajax with enough possibilities to reach the preliminary round of the Champions League next week.
AZ - Ajax seemed headed for another draw for the longest time. After Simon Cziommer's early goal, Wesley Sneijder equalised ten minutes later. For the next 75 minutes the teams kept the balance. Until Shota Arveladze scored in added time to give AZ their first win in four matches against Ajax this season.
,,This result gives us hope for the return match’’, coach Henk ten Cate said. ,,There is not much difference between 1-1 of 2-1. AZ deserved to win, although we also had our chances. Unfortunately we scored only once. Ryan Babel created many chances for himself, but each time it went wrong at the last moment.’’
With key players suspended (Gabri, Edgar Davids) or injured (Jaap Stam, Zdenek Grygera, Leonardo), Henk ten Cate posted Roger and Kenneth Perez in midfield and youngster Gregory van der Wiel in the back. Van der Wiel repaid his coach's faith by playing an excellent match.
Arveladze's highlight (2-1) gave coach Louis van Gaal's team the best chance to qualify for the Champions League. ,,But'', Van gaal said, ,,it is logical that Henk is hopeful. From our point of view, the only difference with 1-1 is that Ajax have to score next week, and we don't.’’
Volgend weekend (zondag, 14.30 uur in de ArenA) beslissen Ajax en AZ de strijd om een ticket voor de voorronde van de Champions League. Gabri en Davids keren dan bij Ajax terug van een schorsing. Wesley Sneijder ontving in het DSB Stadion geel en is geschorst. Aan AZ-kant zal Cziommer de return aan zich voorbij moeten laten gaan. De creatieve middenvelders zullen ongetwijfeld tandenknarsend en gespannen kijken naar een vijfde spektakelstuk.