Ajax A1 qualified for the next round of the NextGen Series on Wednesday evening. Alfons Groenendijk and Kenneth Perez’s team played an away match against English heavyweight Chelsea FC. The duel ended in a 0-0 tie.
The last match of the NextGen Series’ group phase was widely anticipated beforehand. On the ‘mini Champions League’ website, there was talk of the great clash between the prestigious football tournament’s two best teams. Both Ajax and Chelsea desperately needed points in order to qualify for the next round. Because of Wednesday’s tie against The Blues, and the fact that Ajax’s goal balance is better, the A-juniors are assured of a spot in the next round.
Alfons Groenendijk and Kenneth Perez’s team started strongly in the Aldershot Town FC stadium. Leading up to the match, Groenendijk and Perez continued to emphasize the importance of ‘playing our own game’. And that’s exactly what the A-juniors did against a (physically) strong Chelsea. The English team came close to Mickey van der Hart’s goal early on via a Lewis Baker free kick, but it didn’t turn out to be a real opportunity. The Amsterdam team had good chances by, among others, Queensy Menig, who had come up well and shot the ball just a bit too hard, sending it wide of the goal. Lesley de Sa also showed some good footwork. In a one-on-one situation against keeper Jamal Blackman, the winger sent his shot into the goalie’s hands. He also served Lucas Anderson nicely, but the Dane’s header went over the goal. Blackman also diffused a small opportunity by Kenny Tete later on, after which the A-juniors were awarded a corner kick. A scrimmage in front of the home team’s goal didn’t result in anyone scoring.
In the second half, Ajax again showed strong, offensive football. The Amsterdam team continued to put pressure on its opponent, creating four of five good opportunities via, among others, Anderson and De Sa – who was a constant threat to the English team. “There were a few moments when we thought ‘we’re going to score now’, but it didn’t happen”, said coach Groenendijk afterwards. “We had many opportunities to score, but we didn’t cash in on any of those opportunities. That’s the only downside, because otherwise we played an outstanding game. This was a top-level match. We didn’t give much away, we dominated, and played very maturely. Chelsea is a physically strong team, but we dominated the entire game.”
The coach had even more praise for his players. “Mickey van der Hart created security at the back, Xandro Schenk did a great job in the centre, and Kenny Tete played well as a right back. Fabian Sporkslede was very good. Actually, I’m pleased with everyone”, continued the coach. “We played out game and did well.”
A1 can still end first in the pool if they win the last group match against Chelsea.
Ajax A1 line-up: Mickey van der Hart, Kenny Tete, Danzell Gravenberch, Xandro Schenk, Bas Kuipers, Fabian Sporkslede, Lesley de Sa, Branco van der Boomen (79. Tom Noordhoff), Queensy Menig (58. Sheraldo Becker), Djavan Anderson, Lucas Andersen.
Substitutions: Peter Leeuwenburgh, Sinan Keskin, Darren Rosheuvel, Jordy Bitter, Nick de Bondt.