Ajax kicked off the competition on Sunday with a tie. In the Euronborg, their meeting with FC Groningen ended with a 2-2 score. Mounir El Hamdaoui proved important in his first match with Ajax by scoring both goals. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to earn Ajax the win.
Four days after reaching the Champions League play-offs, Ajax kicked off the competition in Groningen. Last season’s number two team began the new football season in the Groene Kathedraal, just like last season. But, in contrast to last season (0-2), this year’s start wasn’t as flourishing. Especially as Ajax squandered a 0-2 lead to the team lead by former Jong Ajax coach, Pieter Huistra.
Jol had a difficult problem to solve. Several players were not available for Ajax’s coach, in the north of Holland. Luis Suarez and Jan Vertonghen were sitting out suspensions, and Eyong Enoh and Rasmus Lindgren both were unavailable due to injury. The Swede retained a knee injury from the midweek duel against PAOK Saloniki and didn´t recover in time to play against his former team. As a result, Ismail Aissati, Christian Eriksen en Oleguer all received a spot on the squad. And of course there was Mounir el Hamdaoui’s debut. The Moroccan international played his first match for Ajax. Nine days after signing with the club, he was on the field at kick off in Groningen.
Leading up to the first match for Ajax’s only new summer acquisition, Jol voiced the expectation that El Hamdaoui would score a minimum of fifteen to twenty goals this season. “I hope he gets started on Sunday”, added Jol. His wish was granted shortly after the break. A kick from Maarten Stekelenburg was passed on handily by Eriksen, after which El Hamdaoui sent the ball with his right foot past keeper Silva: 0-1. With that, he celebrated immediately with the Ajax supporters who had made the trip.
There were more celebrations in store. Eleven minutes after his first goal, El Hamdaoui doubled the score. On a pass from his former AZ teammate De Zeeuw, the Moroccan player´s shot from the right hit the target once again, 0-2. Thanks to El Hamdaoui´s goals, the mediocre first half was soon forgotten. In the first fifteen minutes, De Jong and captain De Zeeuw (free kick) came close to scoring, but that was the extent of the opportunities during until the break.
Ajax´s lead decreased twenty minutes before the end, when the Groningen substitute Matavz crowned the offensive home team with a goal. He beat Stekelenburg from close by: 1-2. This made for an exciting close, as Ajax suffered another goal against four minutes before the end. Nicklas Pedersen´s header from a corner kick hit the mark. With that, Ajax gave away their lead, just as they had on Wednesday against PAOK Saloniki. El Hamdaoui´s great start gave Ajax, and their new forward, just one point.