Ajax hvae dropped their first points in the league. The side were held at 2-2 by FC Groningen in Amsterdam. ,,We played a bad game”, coach Henk ten Cate admitted.
A victory and preferably one with good football: that was what Ajax needed this Sunday to begin to forget the early exit from the Champions League. But that was not in the cards for Henk ten Cate's squad. Ajax, with latest siging Albert Luque in the lineup, had a difficult time against the guests from the north and got no further than 2-2. ,,It wasn't very good”, Ten Cate said. ,,Some guys lacked confidence. And there was too little creativity, especially in midfield.”
With Luque (on the left), Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Luis Suárez and Kennedy in the lineup, Ajax began the match with offensive intentions. But the fans had to wait for more than half an hour before the home team had its first chance. That did result, however, in the first goal. Gabri, positioned as defender in the first half, won the ball in midfield and set up Suárez. The Uruguayan forward fired the ball from distance behind goalkeeper Brian van Loo. Right after the first goal, an attack by Groningen followed. Ajax could not clear the ball and Marcus Berg headed in the 1-1.
At halftime, Dennis Rommedahl and Jan Vertonghen were brought on for Kennedy and Hedwiges Maduro. But the Dane and the Belgian could not make the difference either. Berg made it 1-2 after an hour by heading in his second. Ajax went on to play all or nothing and that resulted in a point for the home side. Ismael Urzaiz (who had replaced Luque) did what was expected from him as a pinch hitter. Ten minutes before the end, he headed the ball to Jaap Stam and the captain headed it to Huntelaar, who scored with a lob. The crowd came alive in the closing stages. ,,And that almost helped us to win”, Ten Cate said. Stam had the best chance to make it 3-2. He struck from inside the box but Van Loo saved it. It stayed 2-2 and no-one in Amsterdam was happy with that. Not the coach, not the fans and not the players. ,,This is disappointing”, Huntelaar said. ,,I wanted nothing but three points. We lacked initiative and it was all too predictable. We have our work cut out for us now.”
Albert Luque looked back with mixed feelings on his debut. ,,I enjoyed the stadion and the atmosphere, but I am not pleased with my performance. I have to get in better shape."
Due to qualifying matches for Euro 2008, Ajax do not play for two weeks. Then the team will play away at Heracles in Almelo.