Was it the disappointment of the loss against Werder Bremen, still lingering in the minds of the Ajax players? Or did the home side have an off day against Excelsior? Whatever it was, in the race for the title Ajax dropped two precious points.
Ajax dropped two points against lowly Excelsior on Sunday. Whatever the home side tried; the liberating third goal would not come. And the afternoon had begun so well: Edgar Davids gave his team the lead with a great strike from way outside the box.
Six minutes after Davids' goal, the teams were level again. Excelsior was helped by an error by John Heitinga, who gave the ball to opponent Andwele Slory. The right winger had a clear path toward goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg: 1-1.
,,Today, it was nothing’’, said Ajax coach Henk ten Cate bluntly. ,,I thought it was terrible. We did ourselves a big disservice today.’’
Long before the Ajaxx boss drew his conclusions, Eldridge Rojer gave the side from Rotterdam the lead, against the flow of the match. The left winger shot the ball past Stekelenburg after winning a challenge against Vurnon Anita. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, back in the starting lineup, brought Ajax back in the match when he headed in a corner kick by Tom de Mul: 2-2.
With a whole half to go, the home side seemed to have enough time to get past Excelsior. ,,We had 45 minutes more to turn it around’’, said Ten Cate. ,,In the end we couldn't bring what was expected.’’
Ajax increased the pressure on the Rotterdam-based team. Ryan Babel was added to the attack and a little later Kenneth Perez replaced De Mul. But it was not to be on this afternoon. Even Jaap Stam's offensive impulses did not have the desired effect. Excelsior goalkeeper Theo Zwarthoed withstood all Ajax's efforts.
The lack of efficiency and luck led to a sombre afternoon for Ajax. League leaders PSV added two more points to their advantage over Ajax.Ten Cate: ,,This may have been the worst match of the season. You should not lose points to Excelsior, but that's what we did.’’