Ajax knocked FC Groningen off first place in the league table by defeating them by 1-0 in an attractive match. Coach Marco van Basten was very pleased.
With a healthy Gabri and Rasmus Lindgren in midfield and Oleguer as a rock-solid central defender, Ajax were more in balance than in the matches against FK Borac and sc Heerenveen.
That was also due to a tactical change by Van Basten. Where Jeffrey Sarpong played on the left wing in previous matches, he now played behind striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar, giving Ajax a midfield with four players. ,,We were looking for a way to be less vulnerable'', Van Basten explained. ,,In the match against Heerenveen we lost the ball very often. With Gabri back, we gained physical and mental strength. But we still had to wait and see whether it would work, because this way of playing was new to the players.”
Escpecially in the first 35 minutes, it worked very well and Ajax created chances. The visitors could not do much back. ,,We had too much respect”, said Groningen coach Ron Jans. After Huntelaar and Suarez left some opportunities unused, Oleguer gave Ajax the lead with his first goal for the club. Jan Vertonghen took a corner which was turned away, but with his second chance the Belgian found Oleguer who headed it in: 1-0.
Jans brought on striker Berry Powel in favour of midfielder Olawafemi Ajilore and FC Groningen started playing the long ball in the second half. That gave Ajax plenty of room in midfield for counter attacks. It resulted in some thrilling moments before both goals. Groningen hit the crossbar and had a goal by Andreas Granqvist disallowed for offside. Kenneth Vermeer also had to make some crucial saves.
,,But the biggest chances were for us”, Van Basten said. Gabri and Huntelaar both appeared alone before goalkeeper Luciano. But the midfielder slipped at the last moment and the striker touched the ball too far ahead of himself. Suarez, who showed flashes of brilliance, tried it with a lob from the halfway line that went just inches too high.
,,We are obviously very happy wit the win. We could have decided it much earlier but we were too careless wit the counter opportunites", said Van Basten, who replaced Sarpong with Dennis Rommedahl soon into the second half. ,,With Dennis on the wing, there are better chances to counter attack. The only thing I blame my team is that we missed so many chances."