Ajax were the surprising winners of the first leg of the UEFA Cup tie against Fiorentina. Kennedy scored the only goal of the match after an hour.
Supported by some 1500 fans in Florence, Ajax put up a gutty performance in Italy. The visitors were off to a shaky start, during which ‘Viola’ had some good chances through Adrian Mutu, Alberto Gilardino and Riccardo Montolivo. ,,We missed five players today, so we had to change the team somewhat’’, Marco van Basten said. ,,It took some getting used to in the first twenty minutes. Before the match I was happy with a draw. Now I am obviously very happy with our win.’’ Only Luis Suarez was able to create something in the first half. Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey boxed the strike away. After the hectic opening stages a messy period followed. Both sides lost the ball often and seemed to lack focus. Ajax did not adjust the lineup to the team from the Serie A. The side from Amsterdam still played with three forwards. Micky Sulejmani, Luis Suarez and Kennedy played up front in the Artemio Francho stadium. Kennedy was again in the starting lineup after his solid performance in the match against Feyenoord (2-0). The Swede paid back his coach's trust in him with a goal in the 60th minute. Urby Emanuelson touched the ball to him and he fired from the edge of the box. The ball went in off the crossbar. The right winger sprinted to the Ajax dugout where he jumped in the arms of his coach. Sulejmani was already on the sidelines by then. Minutes before the goal, he was replaced with Leonardo. Ajax were a bit lucky when shortly after the goal Montolivo ahd a good chance. But the midfielder tripped over the ball and the chance was gone. Ajax were under pressure in the latter stages, but the team played with discipline and was well organised. Oleguer was one of the players who set the right example. The defender made no errors. Van Basten: ,,Oleguer was solid as a rock today.’’ Luis Suarez even came close to widening the margin from a free kick, and minutes later his strike just went just wide. ,,Fiorentina does not have a team that likes to take the initiative. That's why we took it. We both had the same amount of chances. But we struck at the right moment'', Van Basten said. The impressive win puts Ajax in a good position to reach the next round. Fiorentina come to Amsterdam next Thursday for the deciding match.