Ajax still league leaders despite loss at Twente

In a cold and wet Arke stadium, Ajax were not able to close off the first half of the season with a win. Ajax played reasonably well in the first half but nothing went right after halftime. N'Kufo scored in both halves: 2-0. Because PSV also dropped points, Ajax still lead the league table going into the winter break.

Before the match Ajax were already certain of first place. PSV, number two in the league, drew against Vitesse (0-0) on Saturday evening. A comforting thought for Ronald Koeman and his team, as Ajax's form in the last series of games left something to be desired.

Koeman also had only 14 healthy first-team players against Twente. Jason Culina and Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax 2 were added to the first team. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Steven Pienaar, Zdenek Grygera, Hatem Trabelsi, John O'Brien, Tom Soetaers, Tomás Galásek and Petri Pasanen were all absent in Enschede.

Koeman had to choose an unusual line-up, with Rafael van der Vaart behind strikers Victor Sikora and Wesley Sonck. Maxwell played, as the team's left midfielder, his 100th match for Ajax 1. Jelle van Damme was the left back.

Ajax were unimpressed with Twente's early offensive and created some good chances. The best one came when Maxwell ran into the box and fired. The Brazilian saw his effort stopped by goalkeeper Paauwe. ,,Twente had problems with the way we were playing'', Koeman had seen. Ajax got a number of corners, but could not score from them. ,,Not every ball goes in'', said Koeman.

Twente-forward N'Kufo turned out the only player to be able to score. A cross from the right landed before his feet and from close range he struck past Bogdan Lobont. ,,The first goal came from a cross that went right by accident. Maybe it was the wind'', Koeman reacted.

After halftime Ajax showed poor form. The side had to do something, but lost the ball too often. Fifteen minutes into the second half N´Kufo made his second. The man from Congo entered the box from the right side, went by Julien Escudé and beat Lobont from the baseline. ,,The second goal was just bad defence'', Koeman thought.

The coach brought on Jari Litmanen and Culina for Maxwell and Sikora, to create more offensive impulses. It was Jason Culina's debut in Ajax 1, but as right winger he could do little because the ball simply did not reach him often enough.

Ajax were powerless and could not come back. Despite the loss, the team still leads the Dutch league, but the distance with PSV could have been expanded. That was the greatest loss of the afternoon. ,,The result is disappointing. Yet I don't blame the team anything. We made enough mistakes, but we worked really hard. We did not deliver on the offensive end'', Koeman analysed.

The coach would not speak of a bad year. ,,We are out of the domestic and European cups and we finished the first half of the season with a loss. That is disappointing. We cannot lose too much. But it has not been a negative year, too many good things have happened. And young players have times when things are not going so well, but eventually they will be the better for it. After all we are still in first place.''