“It was better than in Madrid”, said coach Martin Jol, after the hopeless defeat at home against Real Madrid (0-4). Good news came from Auxerre, where Milan beat the French team 2-0, leaving Ajax in third place in the group. This spot earns them the right to play in the Europa League.
In this third home match in the Champions League group phase, Martin Jol chose for, in theory, an offensive Ajax. Miralem Sulejmani was on left forward, Mounir El Hamdaoui on centre forward, and captain Luis Suarez on right forward, with Siem de Jong and Urby Emanuelson backing them up. Eyong Enoh was assigned to intercepting any attacking plays towards Real striker Benzema. Compared to the first game, when they dominated and won 2-0, Real Madrid made some line-up changes. Higuain stayed at home with an injury, as did Khedira, and Pedro Leon started instead of Di Maria. On Ajax’s side, Toby Alderweireld got the nod instead of André Ooijer.
The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic. After the tied game against AC Milan during the first home match, and subsequent win against Auxerre, hopes were high that Ajax could make something happen against Real Madrid. The Spanish team, which needs one more point in order to assure themselves as group winner, would perhaps be more focussed on next week Monday’s “El Clasico”. But this wasn’t the case. Although Ajax started enthusiastically, Iker Cassilas’ goal remained Fort Knox for the attackers.
Real Madrid almost took an early lead in the fifth minute, when Pedro Leon had a fantastic opportunity. But his hesitation cost him, as Alderweireld blocked the ball in time. But it was only a matter of time until José Mourinho’s team scored. Ajax kept up well, but wasn’t able to make strong combinations happen in front. In the 36th minute, Jan Vertonghen slid and Benzema had a clear shot, and Real Madrid went ahead, 0-1. At halftime, Madrid, who clearly had the upper hand, dealt a death blow to Ajax. Defender Arbeloa’s shot deflected off Mounir El Hamdaoui’s heel, changing direction and leaving Maarten Stekelenburg hopeless as the ball went past him into the goal, 0-2. “We wanted to play a compact game in the second half, to avoid punishment”, said Jol afterwards. “But they didn’t let us make the combinations. The goals came at the wrong times, and from our mistakes. I find that odd, since when you’re as strong as Real Madrid is, you should be scoring anyway.”
Jol also pointed out two goals in the second half. After Demy de Zeeuw, who came in for an injured El Hamdaoui (ankle), took a wide shot, and Jan Vertonghen almost made good on a free kick, the Madrid goal came down like a sledgehammer. Christiano Ronaldo made it 0-3, and was quickly jeered by the crowd. But Ajax’s pain wasn’t over yet. When Emanuelson faced off against the excellent Özil, he received a penalty kick against. This served up yet another successful opportunity for Ronaldo, 0-4. Real Madrid ended the match with nine players, after both Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos were sent off with a second yellow card each. They will thus miss the last home game against AJ Auxerre, and will start the next round with a clean sheet.
“We need to try to enjoy ourselves again by booking successes. By winning matches”, said Jol.