Ajax lost its first match of 2011 on Saturday afternoon. Frank de Boer’s team were defeated 4-2 by HSV in Hamburg. Midway through the match, Ajax was 3-0 behind. Ruud van Nistelrooy scored three times for HSV. After an hour of play, Luis Suarez scored two goals for Ajax within two minutes.
The man who was at the centre of this match’s organisation wasn’t present on Saturday. When Martin Jol moved from HSV to Ajax, the Germans proposed a practice match. Eighteen months later, Jol is no longer Ajax’s coach, and new head coach Frank de Boer was handed this practice match to kick off the season’s second half.
For this match against the Hamburger Sport-Verein, Ajax’s squad held a few surprises. Jeroen Verhoeven was in goal, to give first keeper Maarten Stekelenburg some rest. Bruno Silva and Darío Cvitanich were given a starting spot by de Boer. The two players, who last year were loaned out to CF Pachuca and Sport Club Internacional respectively, played in their Ajax jerseys once again after an absence of one year.
In the Hamburger Morgenpost’s sports pages, 53,9 percent of Hamburg’s residents believed that HSV would be defeated by Ajax. Unfortunately for Ajax, this prediction didn’t come true. From early in the match, HSV was on the attack, and put on the pressure. Their best opportunities were generated by the two Dutch players in Veh’s team. Former Ajax player Eljero Elia made his way through Ajax’s defense a few seconds after kick off, and fired a shot onto Jeroen Verhoeven. The keeper smoothly ticked the shot to the left. The next opportunity came soon after. Ruud van Nistelrooy, via Guy Demel’s header, made good on a shot at close range, earning the home team a 1-0 lead. Ajax was behind after only two minutes.
After twenty minutes, Ajax made something of a comeback into the match. De Boer’s team started its attack on the Bundesliga’s number nine team. Miralem Sulejmani saw his hard shot disappear just over Frank Rost’s goal. Cvitanich got Ajax’s best opportunity of the first half. The Argentinian fired a shot at the HSV keeper from close by, but failed to score. Shortly after, HSV made good again. Five minutes before the break, Van Nistelrooy doubled the score. On a pass from Zé Roberto, the forward shot high into the goal, leaving Verhoeven helpless. Van Nistelrooy added an assist to his credit soon after. Right before half time, the 34 (former) international made a pass to David Jarolim, who made it 3-0.
Ajax came back in the match’s second half, scoring twice within two minutes at the one hour mark. Daley Blind, who came in for Bruno Silva after the break, sent the ball to Luis Suarez via a cross pass. The Uruguayan shot the ball mercilessly past Rost. Less than one minute later, Suarez scored his second goal. On a pass from Aras Özbliliz, who served him from the left, he scored, 3-2.
Fifteen minutes before the end, Van Nistelrooy locked up the match. The forward, on a one on one showdown with Verhoeven, shot squarely in, thus making his third, and HSV’s fourth, goal of the afternoon.
On Sunday, Ajax travels to Belek, Turkey, to attend a training camp. On Saturday, January 15, Ajax plays the opening match in the new Galatasaray stadium. The match in the Turk Telekom Arena starts at 8.45p.m. (7.45p.m. Dutch time).