Ajax continued its practice tournament on Saturday with a visit to De Graafschap. Merely hours after defeating RKC Waalwijk (1-5), De Graafschap also went under: 0-3. Ajax is ready for the next stop of the pre-season: the traditional training camp in De Lutte.
Coach Frank de Boer got in his car immediately after the RKC match. He wanted to be on time for part two of the pair of practice matches scheduled for that day. The Ajax coach succeeded, as De Boer was on time at De Vijverberg. He sent a fresh team onto the field for kick-off of the De Graafschap – Ajax game. Compared to the match that afternoon against RKC, a totally new Ajax team started off the evening match. Just like in Brabant, an ‘Eredivisie-worthy’ group of eleven Ajax players began the friendly meeting. The fear of seeing a team of cast-offs appear in the ‘Achterhoek’ remained unfounded.
Former Ajax coach Pieter Huistra’s young host team brought the reasonably full Vijverberg to its feet first. Keeper Jasper Cillessen was put to the test from the opening minutes, but he was alert and focused. Centre forward Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and left winger Viktor Fischer were the authors of Ajax’s only real opportunity of the first half. The Icelander and the Dane showed that all of their hard training work was paying off – including during the first training camp in Austria. Sigthórsson was continuously threatening as a roaming, present centre forward. Fischer was full of unpredictable and individual moves and highlights. A sharp tilt over keeper Jordy van de Kracht was almost good enough for the opening goal. The lob bounced just wide. Right winger Lesley de Sa arrived just a fraction too late to shoot the ball in.
De Graafschap’s crowd favourite Anco Jansen brought the spectators to their feed just before halftime with a fierce long distance shot. The attempt went slightly over the Ajax goal. The opening goal was thus reserved for an Ajax player. “The first half wasn’t good, it was too sloppy”, said Frank de Boer afterwards. “We mostly had sloppy moments. That’s why I was quite critical with some of the guys during the break. I didn’t think everyone was as sharp as they should have been. And you saw it: after two minutes, De Graafschap was ready for a slaughter. The opponents were helpless.”
After the break, the team from Amsterdam shifted into higher gear. De Boer’s team took the lead soon after. Sigthórsson showed his killer instinct, striking after 49 minutes from nearby: 0-1. De Sa had the opportunity to double the margin in the first hour. The right forward’s take-off was impressive; the execution (side net) deserved a better fate. Fischer saw his work ethic rewarded with a goal after 62 minutes. The Dane crowned a dribble through the box with a beautiful shot. Four minutes after Fischer’s goal, substitute (and new comer) Simon Moses Daddy scored the third Ajax goal of the evening. The friendly match had effectively been decided.
Three minutes before he struck, Moses Daddy had been part of a series of substitutions by De Boer. After 63 minutes of friendly football, no fewer than eight starting players had been replaced. The Ajax coach thus gave his talents the opportunity to show what they could do in the last half hour. This fits into the build-up schedule that the Ajax players are working with as they move towards the first official match of the new 2013-2014 season. “I’m satisfied with how it’s been going so far; with two matches in one day”, said De Boer about this pre-season novelty. Based on an idea from Performance coach Björn Rekelhof, the Amsterdam team played two games in one day. In this pre-season, Ajax will play two matches within a few hours of each other once again. On Friday, the Spanish team Osasuna and the German Werder Bremen will be Ajax’s opponents on the same day. “Next week, some guys will play 75 minutes”, said De Boer.
A maximum of one hour of playing time was the rule against De Graafschap and RKC. This was also a carefully planned step in the build-up and resistance. Fabian Sporkslede, Bas Kuipers, Stanislav Lobotka and Danzell Gravenberch were the only substitutes who played half an hour both in Waalwijk and in Doetinchem. When De Boer announces his selection for the practice week in De Lutte, it will become clear which of young talents De Boer will be grooming for the start of the season.
Keep watching Ajax TV for highlights of De Graafschap – Ajax and a retrospective from, among others, Frank de Boer.