Ajax lose to CSKA Moscow in training match

Ajax have lost to CSKA Moscow in a match during the training camp in Portugal. Only Russian Sergei Semak scored in the second half of the match that lasted two times 35 minutes. Ronald Koeman gave all his youngsters playing time.

Koeman started the friendly with the following players: Stekelenburg, Escudé, Vermaelen, Heitinga, De Jong, Van der Vaart, Litmanen, De Ridder, Mitea, Sonck and De Mul. Due to many minor and some major injuries in the squad, Koeman had only five substitutes on the bench. One of them was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who had to pull out of training earlier that day, so it was very unlikely that the Swede would see action.

In the beginning of the match the Ajax players had to get used to real opposition after only training for more than a week. The Russians had no trouble intercepting the passes of Ajax and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg had to make a few saves. He did that without much difficulty, as Moscow was not very sharp either. After about ten minutes Ajax got better.

Nicolae Mitea was the first Ajax player to fire at Akinfeev's goal, but the attempt lacked power. Shortly after, the Romanian winger waited too long to cross to Wesley Sonck, so one of the Russian defenders could clear the ball at the expense of a corner kick, which did not result in a scoring chance.

Shortly before the end of the first half, Rafael van der Vaart should have given Ajax the lead. He fired on goal immediately after a through-touch by Sonck. Akinfeev prevented a goal with his fingertips.

Tom de Mul made some good crosses from the right wing, both in the first and second half, but was not otherwise enabled to make his actions. ,,De Mul was not always given the ball when he was free'', Ronald Koeman explained the play of his right winger. ,,He had a difficult match'', the coach said of the youngest player in the squad. And that was not very surprising, because the young Belgian faced a big, physically strong opponent.

After halftime captain Jari Litmanen and Johnny Heitinga, who was bothered by sore knees, did not return. Tom Soetaers took the position of Van der Vaart as left midfielder and Van der Vaart himself took the position and the captain's band from Litmanen.

During the second 35 minutes CSKA Moscow were the better team. Five minutes into the second half, Semak scored the only goal. With a hard strike he punished careless defending by the Ajax players.

On the other side Tom Soetaers had a small chance when he fired in a rebound after a cross by again Mitea at once. The shot lacked speed and the Moscow goalie could save. Midway through the second period Koeman replaced Van der Vaart with Victor Sikora. Ajax play again on Wednesday and Koeman wants to start his strongest team then. John O'Brien took the captain's band for the remainder of the game.

Despite the loss Koeman thought it was a useful match. ,,We took it seriously and deliberately chose to play two times 35 minutes. The first half was fine, but we should have made two goals. In the second half Moscow were stronger. But it was a good training match."

Koeman let all his youngsters play on Tuesday, because he wants to play with his strongest line-up in the second match in Portugal, Wednesday against Receativo Huelva. Daniël de Ridder, Thomas Vermaelen and Tom de Mul now got their chance to show their worth. The coach draws no conclusions from their performance. ,,It's too soon. The final conclusion will be made after the training camp. When we return from Portugal on Friday, we will decide whether they will stay in the squad. De Mul played a tough match, De Ridder and Vermaelen did fine. If they keep it up, things will go the right way for them", the coach ended on a positive note.