Ajax escape again in season opener

The three points that Ajax won in Arnhem against Vitesse (1-2) can be cherished. It was only the second time ever that Ajax won in stadium Gelredome. Just as in the match against Grazer AK five days earlier, Wesley Sneijder's late goal made sure Ajax escaped.

Coach Ronald Koeman missed Sander Boschker, John O'Brien, Jari Litmanen, Tomás Galásek, Hatem Trabelsi and Petri Pasanen with various injuries against Vitesse. Recent signee Tom Soetaers was immediately given a starting position on the left flank. Strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wesley Sonck played up front together. With Steven Pienaar, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder behind the three, Ajax possessed a lot of firepower.

But it was Vitesse who dominated the first part of the match. The home side played agressively and were constantly on the look-out for a counter attack. After thirteen minutes the game plan paid off. Matthew Amoah, who always plays well against Ajax, headed in a cross by Fränkel.

Fränkel's luck changed after that. Wesley Sneijder launched Sonk and before the Ajax striker could attempt a shot on goal, Fränkel slid the ball past his own goalkeeper: 1-1. Both teams had good chances after that, but neither side took advantage of the good opportunities.

In the second half Ajax were a bit stronger. After 60 minutes Koeman took off Ibrahimovic and Soetaers and brought Wamberto and Victor Sikora, who returned to his old home ground, in the team. ,,I left Sonck on the pitch because I thought he was playing better than Ibrahimovic'', Koeman explained his substitutions.

Ajax had more good scoring chances than Vitesse, although the counter attacks of the home side warranted constant attention. Van der Vaart set up Sikora, but the winger's volley was stopped. The match seemed to end in a draw. But all of a sudden the ball came to Sneijder from a clutch situation. The midfielder again scored an important goal for his team, when he calmly put the ball behind Vitesse's goalkeeper in the 87th minute.

,,It was an exciting match'', Koeman said. ,,I am not saying it was a good one, because we had our problems in defence. It is obvious that we are still not on top form. That is why I am happy that we got away with a win today.''