Supported by a fantastic defensive effort, Ajax's restart in Europe went well on Wednesday. AJ Auxerre were defeated 1-0 in Amsterdam. It was not surprising that defender Maxwell went on to become the man of the match in the ArenA by scoring the only goal of the match.
How would the young Ajax hold up? Ajax lost quite a bit of experience, as it could not field the likes of Hans Vonk, Zdenek Grygera, Tomás Galásek and Wesley Sneijder.
But Hatem Trabelsi felt that he really was needed against the French side and carried his team on his back with good defensive plays and great rushes on the right flank. The Tunisian defender's confidence reflected on his teammates, because Ajax's defence played a very solid match. ,,Excellent”, coach trainer Ronald Koeman qualified the play of his men. And it has to be said: both Bonaventure Kalou and Mwaruwari Benjani hardly played any role of importance.
That also went for the whole of Auxerre. The French side achieved very little. That's why it was a shame that the victory was minimal. It should not have been. In the first minute goalkeeper Cool had his troubles with an effort by Mauro Rosales, the hard-working but not outstanding right winger. Also Ryan Babel – starting for Angelos Charisteas who is not eligible to play for Ajax in Europe – had an opportunity but otherwise had a difficult evening.
Steven Pienaar had an unlucky evening. After 44 minutes he had to leave the pitch after an - unpunished - foul by Gautier Akalé with a knee injury. Koeman: ,,I think we will have to miss him for a couple of weeks.” At that point, Ajax had the advantage. In the 36th minute the 42,000 spectators enjoyed a great combination between Maxwell and Van der Vaart. The latter back-heeled it to the former who fired it past the goalkeeper: 1-0.
Right after halftime, the score could have been doubled. But the ball thundered against the crossbar.
Despite Auxerre's occasional tries, Ajax's chances in the second period were far greater. When Nourdin Boukhari and again Maxwell combined to touch it to Babel, the young striker lacked the lucky touch. Substitute Rasmus Lindgren, who made his debut in Europe, also contributed when he passed the ball to Daniël de Ridder. The right winger, on for Rosales, took it in one great touch, but saw his cross deflected by an Auxerre defender.
Boukhari also lacked luck when his effort was saved by Cool. ,,We deserved that second goal”, said Koeman. ,,This is a reasonable result, but 2-0 would have been perfect. I think that we'll see another Auxerre in the away match. They'll have to take the initiative and that means that there will be more room for us.”
Guy Roux was impressed with Ajax. ,,Ajax were stronger than we were, especially in possession. In the first half, they really dominated us. I don't think we'll play any differently in our home match. We only have one face. Abramovitsj happens to be in England…”