De Boer: ‘A collective failure’

De Boer: ‘A collective failure’

Ajax has suffered a painful loss in the competition match against PSV: 4-0. A deluge of goals after the break – four of them in fifteen minutes – proved to be deadly to the national champions. Last Wednesday, the Amsterdam team suffered four goals against when they played in Barcelona. This closed a rather bizarre Ajax week.

Four days after the UEFA Champions League match at Barcelona (4-0), Ajax faced yet another top duel against PSV. Ajax coach Frank de Boer had made a few changes to his line-up. Viktor Fischer returned to his familiar spot as left winger. Nicolai Boilesen had been the (surprising) starter last Wednesday in Nou Camp in the left winger position. The young Dane started off on the bench in Eindhoven. Lasse Schöne and Thulani Serero were two more surprising starters. The duo had begun on the bench in Barça. The South African especially earned his spot on the squad thanks to his convincing stint as a substitute in Catalonia. Just like Ajax, the Brabant team had had a midweek European commitment. PSV suffered a 0-2 loss at home against Ludogorets. Thus, before the Eredivisie match even started, both teams were looking for redemption on the field.

The Amsterdam team were forced to take the stage without the presence of the all-important twelfth man. Due to railway works, transportation for supporters became a contentious issue. The mayor of Eindhoven feared for public order in his city and thus forbid Ajax supporters to attend PSV-Ajax. The Amsterdam team fought the judge’s decision, but to no avail. Out of solidarity for the wronged Ajax fans, and as a show of protest, Ajax’s board members and management team decided not to attend the match in Eindhoven. The completely empty visitor’s stands stood in sharp contrast to the otherwise packed PSV stadium.

In the stadium where Ajax had won last season, 2-3 (until today, they hadn’t lost there since August 16, 2009), a sometimes sloppy first half ensued. Bojan seemed close to scoring in the beginning but the centre forward was stopped by Jeffrey Bruma. Back and forth – in front of both goals – the opportunities were aplenty. Soon after the first Ajax opportunity, Ola Toivonen appeared before Vermeer. This didn’t bear fruit for the Eindhoven team. Memphis Depay’s header went wide. Shots from Siem de Jong and Bojan missed the goal as well.

With halftime in sight, Ajax started to take more initiative. PSV was losing its grip on its opponent, or so it seemed. Right back Ricardo van Rhijn came very close to scoring with his long distance shot. PSV goalie Jeroen Zoet got his fists on the ball at the last minute. Later, Zoet made another save, this time on an attempt by Bojan. Both teams retired for halftime without having scored; Ajax especially must have felt that they had missed opportunities in the first half. That was the critical moment that could give confidence – especially after the news of PEC Zwolle’s loss earlier in the afternoon to Vitesse, which effectively left the lead position in the league up for grabs. PSV and Ajax had the opportunity to determine who would be first in the Eredivisie this weekend. In the end, it was the Eindhoven team who took the coveted lead position in the current list. “In this phase, we were good at finding our free man, but weren’t decisive enough”, said Frank de Boer about the first 45 minutes. “It wasn’t good enough to hurt PSV. There were definitely opportunities. The opening goal in the second half came out of nowhere.”

That goal came eight minutes into the second half. After Kenneth Vermeer had let the ball go after an attempt from Memphis Depay, Tim Matavz shot the ball in from nearby: 1-0. “The point is that you shouldn’t put Kenneth in that position”, De Boer explained his goalie’s mistake. “The pass from the flank should never have been made earlier. You pay dearly for each mistake at this level. Kenneth isn’t at his best right now. Every player goes through that at some point.”
Eight minutes later, Jetro Willems had all of the time and space to attack with the ball. The left back didn’t hesitate, put a handful of Ajax players onto the wrong path and shot straight in: 2-0. PSV steamed ahead and, not even three minutes later, Oscar Hiljemark scored yet another goal. The Swede put his boot beautifully – and painfully, for Ajax – onto Ji-Sung Park’s assist. The ball disappeared flawlessly into the upper corner: 3-0.

But the torturing of the guests wasn’t over yet. Three minutes after his golden assist, Park forced his own free path towards Vermeer. The South Korean veteran proved to be deadly and cool-headed in his finish: 4-0. Suddenly, there was nothing more to be done in the Phillips Stadium of 100 year-old PSV. A painful realization. “We failed collectively”, said De Boer about the lost match. “It was a very disappointing afternoon and evening. We will definitely need to recover from this. We need to build up our confidence in the upcoming matches. And in both cases, we will definitely do that.”

Four goals against in fifteen minutes, three of which occurred in a time frame of seven minutes, gave the competition match a whole new face in the second half. Phillip Cocu’s team succeeded to win after six matches without a victory. Frank de Boer’s plagued formation went down hard in Brabant. Too hard, in fact. Although the magnitude of the victory surely surprised the hosts themselves. On January 19, 2014, a chance for revenge awaits with Ajax – PSV.
Keep watching Ajax TV for highlights of PSV – Ajax, and reactions afterwards from Frank de Boer, Niklas Moisander and Siem de Jong.