Ajax have made a good start of the group stage of the UEFA Cup. Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Edgar Manucharyan illustrated the difference with Austria Wien in goals: 3-0. ,,We have booked a fairly normal result'', said Henk ten Cate.
The Ajax coach was pleased after the solid win. ,,We have good possibilities to reach the next round.''
Getting off to a good start in group F is what Ajax wanted. The team played their first group match in the UEFA Cup. The Austrians had already played a match, and were soundly beaten by Zulte Waregem. That loss had cost coach Frenk Schinkels his job. In the Amsterdam ArenA Schinkels' successor Georg Zellhofer called the shots for the Austrian champions.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar broke the ice for the home side. After a little over 30 minutes he received the ball from a free kick by Kenneth perez and struck from up close: 1-0.
The Austrians had come to Amsterdam to mainly make it impossible for Ajax to play their game. Hannes Aigner was in fact the only forward for the visitors. The others mainly concerned themselves with trying to stop Ajax's offence. Huntelaar was constantly guarded by two defenders. Ten Cate: ,,They did not come here to play football, Austria wanted to limit the damage. They showed very little initiative. We had to be patient and we succeeded in that.’’
Despite their defensive intentions, Austria nearly levelled when Stepan Vachousek headed in the ball shortly before halftime. But he was, correctly, ruled offside. It was one of the few chances for the visitors.
Substitute Edgar Manucharyan and Huntelaar shot their team to safety in the second half. The Armenian gave Ajax some more offensive impulses from the left flank. Perez went to the middle with Huntelaar and Tom de Mul replaced Mauro Rosales on the right wing. It paid off. With a shot from the edge of the box, Manucharyan made it 2-0 halfway through the second half. Two minutes later, Huntelaar ended all doubts with his second goal. Another good free kick by Perez (set pieces have become a weapon for Ajax) was headed in by the striker. Zdenek Grygera, who played well, came closest to scoring the fourth goal when he headed the ball onto the crossbar, again from a Perez cross.
The whole team was worthy of praise. Ajax played a solid match, and they got the start they wanted in the group stage of the UEFA Cup. Ten Cate also sang Manucharyan's praises. The light-footed Armenian played thirty minutes. Enough to impress, his coach agreed. ,,Edgar clearly is on good form and he is feeling fine. He is a great talent. Hopefully he can make the final steps, I really hope that.’’