Ajax did not start this year's playoffs for a Champions League ticket well. Henk ten Cate's team lost the first match against sc Heerenveen by 1-0 in Frysia. The return in Amsterdam is on Sunday.
Both team faced each other last in the ArenA in March. Back then, Heerenveen also won by 1-0 and Lasse Nilsson also scored the only goal in the 18th minute. In Amsterdam, the Swedish forward had plenty of room to strike. Not this time, but he managed to score anyway when he put a cross by Alves into the net with a behind-the-leg highlight.
Ajax were visibly tired from the exhausting Cup final on Sunday. The team, without the suspended Gabri, created but a few chances and were not unlucky that Heerenveen did not score more. ,,It was a difficult evening'', Henk ten Cate said. ,,The score could have been bigger in Heerenveen's advantage. Let's be honest about that.'' Klaas Jan Huntelaar agreed that his former that were the deserved winners. ,,It was difficult for us'', the forward said. ,,The legs did not always do what the head wanted. We'll have to do better on Sunday, then it will be decided.''
Alves, the league's top goalscorer, was the most dangerous in the first half. He gave the assist for Nilsson's goal and fired a free kick onto the crossbar in the 37th minute. Right after, Ajax had their biggest chance, but Tom de Mul aimed too high from up close. Henk ten Cate saw his team regaining control in the second half, but also saw Heerenveen creating some more chances. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg made sure his team did not concede more goals. Substitute Kenneth Perez had a good chance for the equaliser shortly before the end, but after 90 minutes the score was still 1-0. ,,It will be a difficult task'', Ten Cate said about the return match. ,,But one we have all confidence in.''