Ajax did not succeed in giving the second half of Friday's match against Inter a proper continuation. In the second match of the LG Amsterdam Tournament, Manchester United were too strong: 0-1. But there were mitigating circumstances for Ajax. With the match against FC Kopenhagen only four days away, coach Henk ten Cate rested five of his regular starters.
From the starters against Inter (1-1), only Jan Vertonghen, Kenneth Perez and Maarten Stekelenburg remained. It was Ten Cate's way of saying that everything is focussed on Wednesday, when Ajax face FC Copenhagen in the qualifying round of the Champions League.
Nonetheless Ajax and Manchester United made it an exciting first half. With thanks to Ryan Giggs, who was the most dangerous player on the pitch. Twice he fired in a free kick, but twice the ball hit the bar and post.
Ajax could not create that many chances. John Heitinga put the ball in the net, but was ruled offside. After halftime, Thomas Vermaelen, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Kenneth Vermeer came on for Jan Vertonghen, Edgar Manucharyan and Maarten Stekelenburg. That gave Ajax an impulse. Vermaelen made his presence known quickly, when the Belgian defender headed the ball in from a corner kick. Edwin van der Sar showed why he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and saved his team with a cat-like reflex.
Minutes later he did it again. Ajax were given a penalty after Hedwiges Maduro had been brought down. Huntelaar took the spot kick and Van der Sar saved it.
United took the lead fifteen minutes before the end. Again Giggs hit the crossbar with his free kick but this time the linesman indicated the ball had passed the goalline. It had not, the TV footage proved later.
Ajax tried a bit, but lacked power and the absolute will. perhaps the players realised that four days later, they will have to give a peak performance.
Coach Henk ten Cate was not pleased with his team's performance. ,,We played poorly tonight. No initiative, no aggression, no guts. Maybe three matches in six days is too much.'' But the Ajax coach is not worried about the upcoming match against FC Copenhagen. ,,Are we ready for Wednesday? If you have seen the second half yesterday, you know the answer to that.''