After a defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the third pool match, Ajax B1’s day took a significant turn for the better later on. Thanks to a 2-1 win against reigning champion Anderlecht, Saïd Ouaali’s team will be playing in the finals against Liverpool on Monday.
The semi-final match against Anderlecht started at 13:30, half an hour after the last pool match against Liverpool, so there wasn’t much time to recover from the loss. Especially when compared to Anderlecht, who had enjoyed a two hour break before their match against Ajax. But was that the reason that the Belgians took the lead after only three minutes of play? It’s unlikely. In any case, the imposing Belgian centre forward was impressively cold-blooded when he outplayed Ajax keeper Stan van Balderen and was able to slide the ball into the empty goal. Defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah was almost able to rescue the ball from the line, but it was too late: 0-1 was a fact. Bad luck for Ajax, and joy for their Belgian opponents.
The quick goal against felt like a letdown, so soon after the loss to Liverpool. That’s why it was especially commendable that Ajax raised their chins two minutes later. After Abdel Nouri had a great opportunity, it was midfielder Donny van de Beek who was in perfect position by the second post. He easily ticked the ball in, bringing Ajax back into the game.
With, among others, Abdel Nouri, Van de Beek was one of Ajax’s stars. From midfield, he was present in many attacks. Either by making an attempt himself or by making a pass to a team mate, he was there. His pass made with the outside of his foot served Nouri perfectly, but unfortunately Nouri found an alert Belgian keeper in his way. On the other side, Ajax keeper Van Balderen had a strong match as well. With several good saves, he kept Ajax afloat against the club which has won the Future Cup twice.
The fact that current title holder Anderlecht had such a hard time was mainly due to Ajax’s strong play. The 2-1, scored by Vaclav Cerny, was well earned. He was the last stop in a great attack, during which the ball was passed effortlessly from foot to foot. At first Van de Beek seemed to score, but his shot bounced out of the goal via the underside of the crossbar. And Cerny was there, free as a bird, and he sent the ball against the ropes. After this, 25 more minutes were left to play, but Ajax’s lead was never threatened.
This was reason enough for coach Ouaali to consider the match as being a top performance, especially since his team had just lost half an hour before that to Liverpool. “We needed to transition quickly. It’s very clever if you can deliver a performance like that so soon afterwards”, said Ouaali. The coach saw his players push themselves to the limit. “All eleven of them were great. I watched with admiration and pride. Their readiness and their abilities were great. We were better on all fronts.”
His team will play in the finals against Liverpool.