Playing in the UEFA Champions League was too ambitious for Ajax in the 2015-2016 season. Shortly after its 2-3 loss to Rapid Wien in the third qualifying round, Frank de Boer looked back with understandable disappointment.
“Obviously this is a clear disappointment for everyone who loves Ajax”, Frank de Boer opened his press conference after the lost (2-3) return match against Rapid Wien. The Ajax coach had every reason to be upset. An immediate disqualification in the first European qualification round had not been part of the plan. The appealing stage of the Champions League will remain out of reach for Ajax this season. What is left is one qualification round for the Europa League group phase. On Friday, Ajax finds out who their opponent will be.
“We knew that this could be tricky”, continued De Boer, visibly upset. “Especially if Rapid scored and could play their favourite game.” The Austrian team was up 0-2 at halftime. De Boer: “I think that we were doing well, nevertheless. But we got a lesson in efficiency in the first half. That’s part of football. But the players have to learn that sometimes, you need to give the ball a boost, instead of always finding a solution through the game itself. Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind. We should have made Rapid feel like they have nothing to gain. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
“Our 1-2 gave us hope again, and our 2-2 was well-earned”, commented De Boer on the most engaging part of the game, after the break. Striker Arek Milik and substitute Nemanja Gudelj brought new hope for European success to the full ArenA. But it wasn’t to be. De Boer placed responsibility on himself as well. “After that tying goal, we perhaps should have stepped on the breaks a bit more. I hold myself responsible, too. I wanted to play with the point towards the back. That spot wasn’t well manned; and that’s how the goal was scored. Bitter.” Two minutes after Gudelj’s goal, Louis Schaub scored the fatal 2-3. Ajax never recovered.
“We need to go on; earning a spot in the Europa League group phase is important, too”, decided De Boer. “I had the feeling that we could make a difference with this team. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. That’s my responsibility.”