European success takes toll

The European success of Ajax took its toll in the league. A visibly tired squad drew 1-1 at home against FC Utrecht. The draw felt like a defeat.

Micky Sulejmani makes it 1-1.
Micky Sulejmani makes it 1-1.

Miralem Sulejmani, who saved a point for Ajax by making it 1-1 minutes before he was taken off, talked about a defeat for Ajax. With his error he illustrated the feeling of the whole Ajax team. Although the side won one point, the two points lost counted more. Against HSV on Thursday, Ajax played good football, in this league match the team never reached that level. That was also due to the spirit of FC Utrecht, who tried to take Ajax out of their game with with fight-football, and succeeded.

It is always the question how a team gets through the next game after a demanding European match. Only after Thursday night Ajax were able to focus on FC Utrecht. ,,Meanwhile, FC Utrecht were able to focus on the match against Ajax the whole week'', Marco van Basten said. ,,That showed from the kickoff. They were sharp, we weren't. We had little energy. And we have to make sure that we are fresh and sharp evey match, or you get results like this. The match against HSV clearly bothered us. I hoped that we had reached a level where we would be able to deal with that. It's disappointing."

It was a small miracle that Utrecht were able to take the lead. The visitors showed little intention to attack; stopping Ajax seemed to be the main task. Yet, in the 34th minute FC Utrecht scored when Sander Keller reacted sooner than Kenneth Vermeer when his team took a corner and headed in the 0-1. Ajax, who played in the same lineup as Thursday, had had their chances before that moment. Thomas Vermaelen headed the ball too high from a free kick by Rasmus Lindgren, and Kennedy and Urby Emanuelson also came close. Kennedy was replaced by Leonardo after 35 minutes. ,,Leonardo did well against HSV. I wanted to see if we would play better with him instead of Kennedy", Van Basten said.

Ajax were a bit more dangerous after halftime and the team created opportunities, but Leonardo was not a sharp as he had been on Thursday. Sulejmani did score, an hour into the game. With Evander Sno ready to replace him, Sulejmani scored after a fine pass by Luis Suarez: 1-1. ,,I thought the goal would give him such a kick that he would be able to go on a little longer", Van Basten explained his choice to wait bringing on Sno. ,,But after about six minutes, it got more difficult for him. Then I made the substitution."

With Sno and Gabri in the team, Ajax tried their best, but could not get a second goal. The match ended in 1-1. ,,And that hurts", Van Basten said. ,,We want to keep up with AZ and NAC."