Ajax’s training camp in Brazil ended with a 1-0 loss against Palmeiras on Saturday evening. In Pacaembu stadium in São Paulo, substitute Carmona scored the deciding goal of the practice match. Ajax returns to the Netherlands on Sunday in the late afternoon.
After a week of hard work in Brazil, Ajax faced their acid test on Saturday evening, to see how well prepared they are for the next half of the season. This stadium, in which the opening match of the 1950 World Cup was played, was the setting of Ajax’s practice match against Palmeiras, to close the week of training. With a large delegation from Mongeral AEGON watching on, Ajax played for a huge number of Brazilian Ajax fans in the biggest city in South America.
Five days before the double header with AZ, De Boer chose to play his strongest line-up. Just as a week earlier in Almere City, the recovered Siem de Jong was centre forward. With Ruben Ligeon replacing Gregory van der Wiel (groin), and Nicolás Lodeiro as left winger, the outlines of Ajax for the second part of the season became clearer. In addition to Van Der Wiel, Derk Boerrigter and Lorenzo Ebecilio was also unavailable to De Boer (both nursing back injuries).
A loud cheer went up before the Pacaembu stadium. Right before the match, club legend Marcos stuck his head out of a skybox in the stadium. With a standing ovation, the 38 year old former keeper was honoured by the fans. For no fewer than 19 seasons, Palmeiras’ Sjaak Swart defended the São Paulo club’s colours. Moreover, the club announced that it was retiring his number 12. This clearly shows the greatness of the keeper who became world champion with the Brazilian national team in 2002.
In the first half, Marcos’ successor wasn’t put to the test very much. In São Paulo’s summer temperatures, Ajax didn’t pose much of a threat to Palmeiras. The hosts even came close to scoring several times. Forward Tinga appeared in front on keeper Kenneth Vermeer’s goal a few times. On the opposite side, Lodeiro had a great opportunity. But, midway through the first half, the business like Uruguayan’s header on Vurnon Anita’s pass went wide. The number of yellow cards assigned by referee Ribeiro de Souza (four, three of which for Ajax) was remarkable. It all contributed to the lively South American atmosphere in the stadium, which included drums and a fanatic crowd in the stands.
After the break, Ajax came back with an updated line up. Jasper Cillessen, Thulani Serero, Aras Özbiliz, Ricardo van Rhijn and Daley Blind all made their entry onto the field at the start of the second half. Ajax wasn’t done with substitutions, and fifteen minutes later, the only remaining players on field from the starting line-up were Jan Vertonghen and Eyong Enoh. Ouasim Bouy thus had the opportunity once again to perform for the big crowd. After his debut against Almere, the 18 year old midfielder wearing number 40 played for half an hour against the Brazilians.
Besides an attempt from De Jong, Palmeiras’ keeper wasn’t much busier in the second half than he had been in the first. Midway through the second half, substitutes Carmona and Fernandão both made good attempts, but they couldn’t bring the 25.000 strong crowd to its feet. In the closing phase, Ajax, with substitute Davy Klaassen, came close to scoring twice, via Klaassen and Serero.
But it was coach Scolari’s Palmeiras who had the last word. In extra time, Carmona decided the match by scoring at close range. The 1-0 resulted in an explosion of joy. For Ajax, the most important news is that they held their own in Brazil, and will start the second part of the season on Thursday with a fit selection.
Keep watching Ajax TV for a summary of Palmeiras – Ajax, and reactions afterwards.