Ajax has won its first match of their training camp in England. Aras Özbiliz scored the only goal of the afternoon in St. Mary’s Stadium: 0-1. Ajax made a bleak impression in the port city.
Beforehand, it was clear that the starting team for this duel against Southampton would be roughly the same as for the upcoming match for the Johan Cruijff Plate against PSV. Frank de Boer chose for Mitchell Dijks as his left back, among others. The Ajax talent saw his strong preparation phase rewarded with a spot on the starting line-up. On the other side of Ajax’s defense, Ricardo van Rhijn was the left back. Champion Ajax plays cup winner PSV on Sunday, August 5 in the ArenA.
Derk Boerrigter was a noteworthy starter on the outside left. The lefty has been out with an injury for a long time, but, as of this week, is giving the impression of being liberated. Boerriger finally seems freed of the physical difficulties which have been plaguing him. The Oldenzaal native played one half, and was substituted after the break. The pres-season friendly was started with one minute of silence for referee Jack Taylor, who passed away. In 1974, the Englishman refereed, among others, the World Cup final between the Netherlands and West Germany. Ajax players will remember the referee, who was 82, as the referee from the Europa Cup I final between Ajax and Panathinaikos in 1971. Ajax won its first Europa Cup in that final match.
Ajax didn’t manage to win over the scant crowd in the first half. There were barely any opportunities created in the first half. It was only thanks to Kenneth Vermeer that the Amsterdam team didn’t suffer any damage during the first half. After half an hour, the keeper threw himself into the box, endangering his own health, to block James Ward-Prowse, who was coming in. Vermeer prevented a goal against, but needed to be treated briefly. After that, the Ajax player was fortunately able to continue.
The duel against Southampton was the first of two real tests. Ajax will be able to measure where they truly stand in two practice matches against The Saints (promoted to the Premier League last season) and Norwich City. The team from Norwich will be Ajax’s sparring partner next Tuesday. Last season, the Canaries proved to be one of the surprises of the top English league.
The two clubs’ previous meeting had resulted in a spectacular show. In 2009, the Saints were in the League One, the third level of English football. The difference between the two teams was made clear by the score that day: 1-4. Luis Suarez (2), Siem de Jong and Marvin Zeegelaar scored. In addition to De Jong, Vermeer, Miralem Sulejmani, Toby Alderweireld and Vurnon Anita returned to St. Mary’s Stadium.
Even with reinforcements from substitute Viktor Fischer, Ajax made a bleak impression after the break as well. The football tempo was slow and there were few opportunities. The home team’s mainly defensive tactics didn’t make things easy. The first (friendly) match of the pre-season in which Ajax players would play
the full ninety mintes ended up being something of a disappointment.
Aras Ozbiliz’s 0-1 did give the match a bit of colour. The right forward struch after 65 minutes with a diagonal low shot. Seven minutes later, the guests got away by the skin of their teeth again when Southampton had a great opportunity. Billy Sharp came face to face with Vermeer, but the substitute needed too much time to think. The Ajax keeper simply plucked the ball from Sharp’s boot.
Centre forward Sigthórsson played his only match of this training camp in St. Mary’s. The Icelander will not go to Norwich, but will instead travel to his home country to receive treatment on his back. Sigthórsson will be present at Ajax’s Open Day, which takes place on Wednesday, August 1, in Amsterdam. On Tuesday, it
will most likely be a completely renewed starting line-up playing against Norwich City.