Ronald Koeman and his men did not succed in their mission to get at least one point from the away match against Celta de Vigo in the UEFA Champions League. After a decent start Ajax saw Celta unjustly awarded with a penalty and the team really never recovered from that blow: the Spanish side won 3-2 and Ajax now are in second place in Group H.
Ajax started the match fairly well. Although the home side seemed poised to avenge the defeat in Amsterdam two weeks ago, the Amsterdam team looked like they had matters under control.
Referee Veissiére however, lost control of the match early on. Celta striker Milosevic took an obvious dive when he went up against Yakubu in Ajax's box. The French referee decided that he was not going to repeat the 'mistakes' his colleague had made two weeks earlier, when Vigo unrightfully claimed two spot kicks, and awarded Milosevic a penalty. It was put away by midfielder Luccin: 1-0.
Not only Ajax were down a goal, they also learned that Rafael van der Vaart would miss the next match. The captain tried to ask the referee about his decision and was promptly - and strangely - shown a yellow card.
After that, Ajax relinquished control of the match and failed to keep possession. Sylvinho charged forward on the right side, without anybody coming over to stop him. His cross was impeccable and Milosevic only had to put his head behind the ball: 2-0.
But Koeman decided not to make any substitutions at halftime. And Ajax finally showed some of their class in the second half. Maxwell's cross reached Wesley Sonck, and the Belgian striker headed in the 2-1.
The Ajax players started to believe in their chances again. Yakubu almost scored the equaliser when he headed the ball against the crossbar. Yet it was the home side that scored next. Vagner was found on the left of the box. Yakubu attempted a sliding, but the Brazilian was too quick and deft, and struck past Lobont.: 3-1.
Van der Vaart, still not on top form, did make Ajax's second. From a turn he struck home from some distance. He tried to fire up his teammates to start a final offensive. With three substitutions in the second half (Heitinga for Yakubu, Litmanen for Ibrahimovic and Wamberto for Galásek ), the side pressed on, but to no avail.
Shortly before the final whistle, Ajax were reduced to ten when Vessiére gave Zdenek Grygera his second yellow card, for an innocent foul. The Czech defender will therefore also miss the next CL-match, against AC Milan who won their away match against Club Brugge. ,,We were 'unluckier' with the yellow cards'', Koeman said carefully. ,,It was an open match and there was no reason for the eight yellow cards and a red one we got. But I'm sure that according to UEFA rules, this man did a good job'', he said cynically.
Of course the coach was disappointed. ,,I think we played better than two weeks ago in Amsterdam. But considering the chances and the possession I think this is a fair result. The only positive thing is that the goal difference between these two teams is in our advantage.''
And with two matches to go and only three points between numbers one (Milan) and four (Brugge) in Group H, that is not a bad thought.