For the fourth season in succession Ajax did not manage to win a single point in Utrecht. Compared to the match against Arsenal, this was the total opposite. Then, coach Ronald Koeman was happy with the result, but not with the football. Now, Ajax played a lot of good football, but the result was disappointing. Many nicely created opportunities went to waste. FC Utrecht needed far fewer chances to score. Dirk Kuijt became the match winner with his goal in the 71st minute.
Ronald Koeman had made one change in comparison with the Arsenal game. Wesley Sneijder played for Nigel de Jong. ,,Tuesday's match cost Nigel a lot of energy, Koeman explained. ,,In the way we played against Arsenal I needed De Jong more than Sneijder. Now I wanted a different type of player. And you always have to be careful that you don't ask too much from a young player." Tomas Galasek had recovered well from being hit by Dennis Bergkamp. The upper leg felt fine, so the Czech was able to play his 46th match of the season.
Utrecht's coach Foeke Booy admitted that Ajax have better players than Utrecht. ,,We have to compensate for that battling hard. That method worked wonders in previous matches. Ajax lost three times and drew once. The last win came in August 1997.
Fighting hard is what brought FC Utrecht success again. Yet for a long time it seemed that it would not be enough. Ajax played well. Zlatan's touches were genius at times. But on the difficult pitch the Swedish striker, who has no competition for his spot after the disciplinary sanctions against Mido, wanted to do to much by himself. Sneijder found Ibrahimovic open on the left side in the 23rd minute. Maxwell and van der meyde had positioned themselves before the goal, but Zltan tried to surprise goalkeeper Ponk with a clever shot. However, Utrecht's goalkeeper, stand-in for Wapenaar, had a terriffic day.
Ajax were to find that out as the match progressed. Three times in ten minutes Ponk reacted well on attempts by Ibrahimovic and Sneijder. For young midfielder Sneijder it was a momarable match. Born and raised in Utrecht, but playing for Ajax from a young age, he seemed even more motivated to do well in his hometown.
Sneijder best chance came in the second half. Maxwell had wrestled free from the ever annoying Stijn Vreven and crossed from the end line to Sneijder, whose shot lacked the power to defeat Ponk.
Two minutes later Ajax should have taken the lead. Zlatan launched Andy van der Meyde and the winger went wide around Ponk and tried to score from the left. Van der Meyde's effort lacked power, giving Zwaanswijk the time to clear the ball before the goal line.
Utrecht had chances of their own, but they came few and far between. Two minutes before halftime, Lobont misjudged a corner, allowing the ball to land on the head of Schut, who headed in. Trabelsi saved on the line.
Ajax were really troubled when Booy made two substitutions. Zuidam and Roiha came on and the home side came to life. Ajax had to go back and could not prevent Kuijt scoring of a deflected shot by Roiha in the 71st minute: 1-0.
Ajax had some more scoring opportunities, but did not manage to put one past Ponk. Things got ugly in the 84th minute when Andy van der Meyde was red-carded after fighting with Zwaanswijk, who was sent off as well. Ajax received five more bookings (Van Damme, Sneijder, Trabelsi, Witschge and Boukhari). There was battle, there was football, but there were no goals for the side from Amsterdam.
The loss means PSV lead Ajax by seven points in the league table. Koeman: ,,This loss has nothing to do with the matches against Arsenal. We played well, we just didn't score. We certainly weren't taking it easy. We cannot win the Champions League, we can win the Dutch league. That's why we really came here to win."
,,A specific part of the team failed today. The front line. This loss is disappointing, because it was unnecessary. We needed too many chances. Right until the end I felt that we would make it 1-1. That is the only criticism I have for the team. That they did not score."
,,The gap with PSV is quite big. I don't see them losing many points. We can only hope for some lesser matches from them.
Foeke Booy was very pleased with the three points. ,,But I think 1-1 would have been a fair result as well. I enjoyed watching two teams play hard. I want to wish Ajax all the best in the Champions League against Arsenal."