Prior to the first training in July, coach Henk ten Cate said 'We are at the beginning of a great period'. Back then, the first match still had to be played. Now, six weeks later it is the first time that Ajax have won the first match in the preliminary round of the Champions League and have captured the Johan Cruijff Shield, by defeating PSV 3-1. An excellent start of the new season.
But in Amsterdam, everybody realises that a good start does not have to mean a good season. Last year, Ajax also won the Dutch Super Cup, but the season following that match could hardly be qualified as a success.
Therefore, not too many conclusions can be drawn after the clash between the Cup holders and the national champions. But if the match against PSV was any kind of indication, Ajax are on the right way.
Henk ten Cate's team dominated the first part of the match. The Ajax boss had changed his team in three places compared to the match in Copenhagen. Klaas Jan Huntelaar was suspended and George Ogararu started in place of John Heitinga as right back. ,,George had to have a chance in a match that countsl. Heitinga played against FC Copenhagen, George in this match. But it was difficult for him today'', said Ten Cate. Robbert Schilder replaced Hedwiges Maduro, who does not have the conditional abilty (yet) to play two matches a week. Ryan Babel played in place of the suspended Huntelaar. ,,I had two options. Rosenberg as striker or Babel. That would be at the expense of Kenneth Perez. Kenneth is still searching for his form. He has the abilities, but we need to give him some time to get acclimatized.”
But the forward quickly felt at home in this match. Hardly a minute after he had come on for Rosenberg in the 68th minute, Perez scored to make it 2-1. Mauro Rosales, in collaboration with Babel and Gabri, had torn through PSV's defence after seven minutes and made 1-0. Ajax dominated until ten minutes before halftime, when PSV grabbed the initiative. Ten Cate brought on Heitinga and Maduro for Ogararu and Schilder at halftime, but the title holders also were the better team in the first ten minutes of the second half and quickly equalised through Cocu. After the 2-1 by Perez, PSV were done. Wesley Sneijder's fabulous long-distance goal with which he made it 3-1, gave the victory some more lustre.
,,This is an important win for us”, said Ten Cate. ,,It's a prize and it gives confidence. We earned this win and we are happy with it.''