Nothing seemd to be in the way of a great afternoon for Ajax against NEC. The weather was nice, the national top scorer was wearing the Ajax kit and the Amsterdam ArenA was filled with enthousiastic Ajax fans. But after the 1-1 draw against NEC, disappointment prevailed.
As earlier this season, Ajax dropped points against NEC. In Nijmegen Ajax even suffered a 1-0 defeat and the draw in Amsterdam will be cheriched alomost as much among the NEC supporters. The draw was a good reflection of the strenght of both teams.
,,We played a very poor match'', said coach Danny Blind. ,,We could not control the match. We played without confidence as a team. Too many players were below their level today.''
The ideal Ajax line-up remains a puzzle. With latest signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar as the striker, a second role up front was created for Markus Rosenberg, who operated mainly from the left flank. Mauro Rosales manned the opposite side.
Ajax had trouble finding the right solutions and goalgetter Huntelaar was the main victim of it. The forwrd with number 25 was barely given the opportunity to show his scoring skills. ,,With the level we reached today and our poor team effort, he couldn't do much'', said Blind.
NEC opened the score after five minutes, when Rob Wielaert headed in a corner by Tininho. Ajax equalised six minutes later. A cross from Rosales went over goalkeeper Gabor Babos and reached Rosenberg. The Swede fired it in the back of the net: 1-1.
There were to be no more goals. Ajax played flatly and committed too many unnecessary mistakes.The physically strong NEC midfielders make sure the visitors controlled the ball and the pace. Wesley Sneijder's absence, he was suspended, was felt this Sunday. And Ajax could have used the offensive impulses of Hatem Trabelsi, who is preparing for the Africa Cup with Tunisia.
With Angelos Charisteas on for Nourdin Boukhari, Ajax tried to force a decision, but to no avail. NEC were ever dangerous and substitute Rutger Worm even had a chance to give his side the three points. That did not happen, but Ajax's performance was bad for the level of confidence in Amsterdam.