Inexperienced Ajax shines for one half against Lyon

Ajax was superior to Olympique Lyonnais in the first half of the first Champions League match. In the second half Lyon came back strong but Ajax held on to win 2-1.

Ajax had to play without the injured Rafael van der Vaart and Bogdan Lobont. Cristian Chivu’s status was uncertain until a few hours before the match due to a hamstring injury. And Mido was left out of the squad for disciplinary reasons.

Lyon had to be surprised by Ajax’s playing system. Coach Koeman had made the wingers change sides, thus using Sikora’s speed on the right wing. ,,Lyon’s weakness is on the wings. We used that well’’, said the coach.

After eleven minutes Ajax scored. Zlatan received the ball on the left side, went into the box, tricked two defenders and scored Ajax’s first goal in the Champions League off the inside of the post.

For the next ten minutes Ajax played with the opponent. Van der Meyde and Galasek did not convert the opportunities. Olympique also had its chances, but they came more unexpectedly. Anderson’s sudden strike after 23 minutes bounced off the goal post.

But Ajax was the better team in the first half. Especially Jari Litmanen’s presence was vital to the team’s performance. The Finnish midfielder was instrumental in Ajax’s second goal. Litmanen asked Sikora for the ball and passed it right back to the right winger. Zlatan was in excellent position to convert Sikora’s cross, 2-0.

In the second half Lyon put Ajax under pressure and became the dominating side. Juninho had a chance, but goalkeeper Stekelenburg boxed the ball over the end line. Ajax could only occasionally create some danger, and most of the time it did that from dead-ball situations.

Ronald Koeman brought on fighter Jan van Halst for Galasek. Soon the midfielder was booked by referee Riley, who had already shown Galasek and Yakubu the yellow card for minor fouls.

In the last ten minutes John O’Brien saved Ajax twice when he cleared a ball from the goal line. He could not prevent a French goal in the 84th minute. Bergdølmo, who had just come on for Zlatan, had to let Anderson go. The technically gifted forward struck around Stekelenburg, who had come away from his goal, 2-1.

Shortly after, Ajax suffered another setback. Yakabu was booked again by Riley and the defender from Ghana had to leave the pitch. With ten players Ajax managed to hold on to the lead.