Ajax began the Europa League group stages on an off note. The home game against FC Timisoara remained scoreless. What happened after the match spoke volumes. The Romanians celebrated with their fans, as Ajax left the field with their heads bowed.
Siem de Jong started instead of an injured Eyong Enoh, and that was the only change to the starting lineup which had handily defeated NAC Breda 6-0 last Sunday. This was the first group stage match in the Europa League, in which Ajax had earned a spot at the expense of Slovan Bratislava. This tournament is a consolation prize for Timisoara, as they were defeated in the play-offs of the Champions League by Stuttgart (2-0, 0-0).
But, in contrast to Ajax’s smooth game on Sunday, Thursday evening’s duel was a tough one. Ajax did create opportunities.- in the first and twentieth minute for Suarez and in the 22nd minute for Siem de Jong - but did not convert. “What we had expected from Timisoara came true” said Jol afterwards. “Despite that, you know that you will get opportunities. It doesn’t need to be forty of them, but you need to convert the ones you do get. We didn’t do that. In the first half, our defense and buildup were good, but we missed details on attack.”
The Romanians awaited their chances for counter attack. When they lost the ball, the yellow clad Timisoara transitioned quickly to their defensive positions, for security. From that tight formation, they defended fiercely, sometimes literally pouncing on Suarez and Cvitanich. According to the five referees (two extra assistant referees started at each back line as a trial) , it was all clean play, but the Ajax offensive duo had a difficult time and could sometimes simply not shake the two defenders who were constantly on top of them.
Jol started in the second half with the same team as before the break. But things got dangerous in the 47th minute, when Goga broke free and had a clear path to the goal. Thanks to Stekelenburg the score remained 0-0, with a fantastic save on the hard shot on goal. In the 58th minute, Ajax got a decent chance when Kennedy crossed the ball nicely, but Cvitanich just couldn’t reach it. This marked the Argentine’s last play, as he was relieved by Marko Pantelic.
With fifteen minutes left to play, and Sulejmani in for Kennedy, Ajax made another attempt, peppering shots on the keeper from the second line. Emanuelson almost succeeded in the 76th minute, but his low shot just missed wide. Suarez had a big opportunity eight minutes before the end after a sharp pass from De Jong, but a Romanian leg deflected his effort over the goal. Ajax stayed vigilant until the last second, keeping a sudden Romanian break out in check. The closer to the end, the sharper Timisoara were to steal the win. This kept the game exciting until the very end. Jol: “ From experience, I know that you can also lose this kind of match. That’s the only positive thing. They’ve lived up to their reputation. It’s a shame for us that we didn’t manage to carry on the scoring momentum we’ve had lately, except in the match against Sparta, on to the European level.”
In Ajax’s pool, Anderlecht defeated Dinamo Zagreb at home: 0-2. Ajax will play the Belgian team in Brussels on October 1.