Ronald Koeman's body language at the press conference spoke volumes. Ajax's coach was upset with the 1-0 loss against Feyenoord in the semi-final of the Amstel Cup. Granted, Feyenoord had been better at the start of both halves, but Ajax had done well the rest of the time. However, to Koeman's chagrin, Ajax could not make up for Paul Bosvelt's second-half goal.
Koeman was forced to make substantial changes in his line up. Trabelsi was injured, as was his logical replacement Nigel de Jong. John O'Brien had to play at right back, where he did not have to match up against Robin van Persie. Feyenoord's boy wonder was ill, food poisoning from bad shrimp. Anthony Lurling started in his place.
For the cup tie Ajax looked differently up front too. Jari Litmanen, in his first start in months, replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the only player who was allowed to rest. He was flanked by wingers Nourdin Boukhari on the right and Andy van der Meyde on the left. They would change position in the second half.
The Ajax players were not alert in the opening stages of the game. Feyenoord was allowed to come on and received a pair of corner kicks. Ajax hoped for success through quick counter attacks. The corners lead to nothing and the final passes in Ajax's counters were too hard.
Feyenoord were the better team and created some chances. After 20 minutes Lobont made a great save on a hard shot by Kalou. Van Hooijdonk's header after the resulting corner missed by a hair. ,,I don't know if it had something to do with the heat, but we started apathically'', Koeman said afterwards.
After that, Ajax played better and created scoring opportunities. The best one was for Wesley Sneijder. The midfielder, playing behind forward Litmanen, shot too softly. Four minutes later Litmanen's lob deserved a better fate. Goalkeeper Lodewijks just got a hand behind the ball. Shortly after, Ajax should have been awarded a penalty when Van Wonderen pulled down Van der Vaart in the box.
In the second half, the home side again came better out of the dressing room. And this time Ajax had no answer for a smooth combination between Bosvelt and Emerton. Feyenoord's captain got the ball back from the Australian and struck in the far corner: 1-0 after 53 minutes. ,,Somebody should have stopped Bosvelt. Nobody did a thing. 'Just go on...''', Koeman said cynically.
Ajax should have equalised ten minutes later. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - on for Litmanen - crossed from the right to an unmarked Van der Vaart, who failed to head in the open chance. ,,We did everything we could", Koeman thought. ,,We played well, but failed to score. The ball wouldn't drop for us." By bringing on Witschge for Pasanen Koeman tried to create new chances, but nothing worked.
Koeman even had to prevent a mass brawl. Chivu was involved in a scuffle when he tried to take a quick throw-in and was obstructed in that attempt. In no-time Lobont , Van der Vaart and a few Feyenoord players were also in each other's face. Ronald Koeman and Feyenoord's Geert Meijer rushed over and calmed the situation. Feyenoord was already playing with ten players by then. Pierre van Hooijdonk was sent off with a ridiculous red card. In an attempt to break the spell Koeman brought on the tall Jelle van Damme. The Belgian, used before as a pinch hitter, could not perform any miracles in the six minutes he spent on the pitch.
Ajax did not manage to tie the score. The cup final will therefore not be a replay of Ajax - FC Utrecht of last season. The side from Amsterdam now has to focus on staying in second place in the league, ahead of Feyenoord.