Ajax held a training camp in Germany last week. The camp began with a match against Dutch first-division side Fortuna Sittard and finished with a match against German team Arminia Bielefeld. In that match, Ajax showed they have made progress in the past weeks.
Ajax played against Fortuna Sittard on Wednesday, dominated but all but relinquished control of the match in the second half. Nicolae Mitea made it 0-1 and substitute Nigel de Jong, on for the injured Steven Pienaar, scored the 0-2 before halftime. It took the home team just four minutes to get back in the game in the second half when they converted a penalty kick. When Yannis Anastasiou restored the margin after 61 minutes, it seemed the match was all but over. But Fortuna scored again and Ajax just made it to the end without allowing another goal. ,,In the first half, we played well as a team'', coach Danny Blind said. ,,In the second half we went from bad to worse.''
The next morning, Ajax travelled to Germany. In hotel Klosterpforte in the tiny village of Marienfeld, the team trained hard for two days. Little by little Danny Blind had the chance to incorporate late arrivals Angelos Charisteas, Hatem Trabelsi, Ryan Babel, Urby Emanuelson, Hedwiges Maduro and Kenneth Vermeer into the group training.
Although a few players suffered minor complaints and had to be worked with seperately and Hatem Trabelsi was sick for the better part of two days, the team seemed to be getting closer and the accent during the workouts shifted from conditioning to technical and tactical drills.
The German training camp ended with a match on Saturday against Bundeliga-side Arminia Bielefeld. It provided Blind with the opportunity to give the first minutes to Charisteas, Maduro, Babel and Emanuelson. Ajax played their best match of the preseason so far. Wesley Sneijder scored from a free kick (0-1) and Ryan Babel combined with Charisteas to make it 0-2. This time the team from Amsterdam kept a firm grip on the match. Shortly after halftime, Nourdin Boukhari found Markus Rosenberg at full speed and the Swedish striker scored easily: 0-3. John Heitinga added the finishing touch with ten minutes to play: 0-4.
,,We played reasonably well'', Blind said. ,,I have a lot of options with all these players. I don't have one team in my head. The line-up will also depend on the opponent. We have to have control of the tempo of the match and although today was not a really good indication, I saw quite a few good things happening out there.''