Ajax suffered a crushing loss on Wednesday evening in their Champions League match. Visiting Auxerre – who, at the time, had no points – Ajax lost 2-1. After going down a goal early on, Alderweireld brought Ajax to a tie ten minutes before the end. Soon after, substitute Langil scored in Stade Abbé Deschamps, erasing any glory for Ajax’s 100th Champions League goal.
The French national anthem graced the stands of the Auxerre stadium shortly before the game began. The home team’s first points after four group matches were joyfully celebrated. With two matches left, Auxerre is now just one point behind Ajax. In the last two duels against pool mates Real Madrid and AC Milan (Milan – Madrid ended in a 2-2 tie), Ajax and Auxerre will fight it out to see which team will still be playing after the winter break. Ajax has the advantage of leading the French team, and is just one point behind second – placed AC Milan.
The thundering applause that the French fans had for their team midway through was symbolic of the tough evening Ajax faced. Martin Jol’s team simply couldn’t get into their rhythm, with practically nothing going their way in the pouring rain. The home team, in contrast, seemed motivated and all too aware that Wednesday night was its last chance to make something happen.
Jol left Siem de Jong off the squad in Auxerre. Ajax’s coach chose for Enoh and Lindgren as midfield controllers and for De Zeeuw on point in front. Toby Alderweireld made his return to the defensive heart, replacing the suspended Ooijer. On Auxerre’s side, suspended star player Oliech was absent.
Auxerre took the lead early on. A shot from European rookie Frédéric Sammaritano was ticked by Vertonghen, sending the ball past Stekelenburg, 1-0. The early goal made by the smallest man on the field was a carbon copy of the swift start that Ajax had had two weeks ago in the first match, when Demy de Zeeuw scored a quick goal.
The rest of the first half offered little opportunity for Ajax to tie. Only De Zeeuw and Suarez, hungry for a goal, posed any danger. Auxerre was on a roll and, thanks to Birsa and Quercia, came close to scoring again. Thanks to Stekelenburg, and a lack of finesse and luck on the French side, Ajax was spared a bigger deficit.
In pursuit of a tying goal, Jol made two offensive changes during halftime. De Jong replaced Enoh during the break, and Sulejmani came in for Anita fifteen minutes later.
After an hour of play, the 1.100 Ajax supporters who had made the trip finally had a reason to cheer. On a pass from Van der Wiel, who had come to the front, Suarez headed the ball onto the crossbar. Finally, a moment that made the trip to France worthwhile for the faithful Ajax fans who had made the trip especially for the match. There was precious little else to enjoy in the provincial town, due to strict security and complete ban on alcohol. Hundreds of police agents posted in the town during the day gave Auxerre a sinister character.
When the tying goal came in the last minutes, the visitors stand finally had reason to cheer. But the joy from Alderweireld´s precise header (Ajax´s one hundredth in the Champions League), on a Suarez pass, was short lived. Five minutes after it became 1-1, Auxerre substitute Langil scored the winning goal. With a considered shot, he sent the ball past Stekelenburg, sending Ajax home empty handed.