There are times when Ajax look all mature, but on Wednesday childish mistakes proved that the team in reality is going through puberty. Ajax played a superior first half, in which they humled ADO Den Haag. Mature, sensible teams know how to finish such a job but the adolescent in Ajax seemed unprepared for the job. In a bizarre final stage of the match, the home team lost their heads and two of three seemingly certain points: 2-2.
Disbelief and doubt prevailed after the match in the Amsterdam ArenA. Two goals in added time brought ADO Den Haag alongside Ajax: who would have predicted that?
Ajax confirmed in the first half that there is a huge gap in quality between the teams from Amsterdam and The Hague. ADO never had a chance in the first half and it was nothing short of miraculous that Ajax were leading only 2-0 at halftime. In the first ten minutes alone, the home side created three great chances, but Zdenek Grygera, Tomás Galásek and Angelos Charisteas couldn't convert.
Ten minutes later the inevitable opening goal was a fact. Wesley Sneijder delivererd the ball to Steven Pienaar, who touched it to Hedwiges Maduro. The Dutch international player thundered the ball past the ADO goalkeeper: 1-0. When Sneijder doubled the margin eight minutes later with a sublime effort, a great evening seemed to be on the cards. A suitable atmosphere for the farwell-party for two former Ajax players; John O’Brien (now playing for ADO) and Cristian Chivu, who payed his former club a surprise visit from Rome.
Ajax should have been warned when after 45 minutes the margin had not grown and a forced substitute had to be made. John Heitinga had replaced Grygera, who sustained a groin injury; in the second half Ajax paid the toll for their youthfull carelessness. First, Heitinga was shown a second yellow card, again for holding his opponent. Ajax had to play on with ten and gradually lost their grip on the match, although Mauro Rosales had one more good opportunity to force a decision.
A costly miss, it would turn out when the stadium clock already indicated 90 minutes had passed. Eljero Elia brought ADO Den Haag back to 2-1. In the consternation that followed, Ajax did not succeed in keeping calm. Sneijder of all people - despite his young age an experienced international - made a mistake when he chose to place a free kick in the box, instead of playing for possession. ADO got one more chance to attack and Jan Paul Saeijs was left open to put in the equaliser in the final second: 2-2.