On Thursday evening, Ajax failed to qualify for the UEFA Europa League group phase. Marcel Keizer’s team initially seemed poised to wipe away their 0-1 defeat from the first match, but in the end, did not manage to do so. Despite being dominant for the whole match, Ajax lost the game by 3-2. The Amsterdam goals scored by Amin Younes and Lasse Schöne didn’t manage to make the difference.
Elimination from European football is a hard blow. Last year, Ajax was the finalist in the Europa League, earning compliments left, right and centre for their often superior offensive play. Exactly three months after losing that final against Manchester United, and exactly one year after the debacle in Rostov, another great disappointment awaited Ajax. For the first time since 1996, Ajax will not play in a main European tournament this season. This was also the case in 1990-1991, but that time, it was due to a suspension.
Dolberg or Huntelaar
The big question before the return was which centre forward would start. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who had led Ajax to its first victory of the season last Sunday against FC Groningen? Or Kasper Dolberg, the big talent who had a spectacular debut season for Ajax, but has made a less impressive start to this season?
Dolberg got the nod, although Huntelaar did come in during the second half to rescue the game. At that moment, Ajax was 1-0 down, a score which was at odds with the opening phase of the game.
Ajax made an outstanding start to the game in Lerkendal Stadium. The Ajacieds were dominant in the firsts ten minutes and the home team barely even touched the ball. Several threatening moments in front of the Rosenborg goal ensued, with opportunities for Younes, Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech, but none of these was converted. The same was true for a moment during which Rosenborg played back to keeper Hansen in a very risky way, but Dolberg came up short.
Shift in momentum
Encouraged by the fact that they had survived a few dangerous minutes without suffering any damage, Rosenborg fought back in the first half, and became better and better. When Nicklas Bendtner scored the 1-0 goal at the first opportunity, the momentum shifted. After Van de Beek’s sloppy ball loss, an attack over the right side ensued, and Bentner’s head was reached by the second post.
Ajax was teetering on the edge of elimination, by refused to surrender. Just as in the first half, the Amsterdam team came out fighting. It seemed as though the same scenario was repeating itself, because once again, they failed to convert on several opportunities. With the necessary skills and a dose of good fortune, Rosenborg remained in the lead.
The well-deserved Amsterdam goal was inevitable and came fifteen minutes in. Younes scored the goal (1-1), which gave Ajax a huge boost and loads of confidence. One minute later, the score was 1-2 and Younes once again had an important role. His pass was shot into the goal by Schöne at the second post.
Everything was thus turned on its head within a minute, and Ajax was almost through tot the next round. Despite that, caution was required, because a goal against could change everything. And, nine minutes before time, that is just what happened when Rosenborg tied the game, 2-2. Ajax had only itself to thank, as they had failed to convert good opportunities right before that. Younes hit the post and Cerny failed to pull the trigger twice.
Thus Ajax was forced to save their skin in the final minutes, which they unfortunately couldn’t do. One minute before time, the 3-2 goal was even scored. Adegbenro, who had scored the only goal in Amsterdam, scored the second goal of the night, rubbing salt into the Amsterdam team’s wound.
See also: Pictures | Rosenborg BK - Ajax