Ajax lost by 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the little Nattenberg Stadium on Saturday. ,,A very educational match'', said coach Henk ten Cate about the friendly in which Ajax squandered a 1-0 lead.
With the confrontation with (likely) FC Copenhagen in the preliminary round of the Champions League eleven days away, the Bundesliga club was the ideal opponent for Ajax. ,,This was a good test against a physically strong opponent'', said Ten Cate, who had seen to his regret that his team could not make changes on the pitch by themselves. ,,They needed help from the sidelines. They couldn't change things themselves. Guys who normally take the initiative, could not do that now. Jaap Stam had his hands full and with Gabri it is a matter of communication. He saw what happened, but could not make it clear until halftime. We have learned a lot from this and we shouldn't make this mistake again.''
Yet Ajax took the lead after 30 minutes when Klaas Jan Huntelaar was the first to react when goalkeeper Pirson could not hang on to a Wesley Sneijder free kick: 0-1.
,,Optically, Borussia may have been stronger in the first half, but they had only one real chance'', said Ten Cate. Maarten Stekelenburg saved. On the basis of the goal chances, Ajax were the most dangerous team in the first half.
After halftime, the tide changed. But first Huntelaar should have made it 0-2 to Ajax when he found himself face to face with the goalkeeper after a pass by Perez. The normally cool striker shot it high. Huntelaar did not score and a difficult period for Ajax began. ,,The players have experienced what it is like to play against a team that plays to win'', said Ten Cate.
The Germans tasted their first success after 75 minutes when Wesley Sneijder lost the ball and, according to Ten Cate, 'four of five players more did something wrong'. Kringe was on side and he fired the ball past Stekelenburg: 1-1. ,,When they scored their first goal, you could see we lost it'', said Ten Cate. Ajax could no longer hold on to the ball and Borussia came on again. Captain Wörns took another dive and referee Metzger had seen a foul by Jan Vertonghen. Penalty for the Germans, yellow for Vertonghen. Kruska converted the spot kick.
,,Losing to a team such as this, is no reason to panic'', said Ten Cate. The coach was, however, displeased with the fact that some of his players failed to put up a fight against the hard fouls by the home side. ,,That guy over there'', he said pointing to former Ajax player Steven Pienaar, ,,has brought down quite a few of our guys. And that's fine, he plays with his heart. But then you send him flying once too, no matter what a nice guy he is.''