Interim coach Ruud Krol had already predicted that Ajax would have a difficult time against NEC. Sadly, he was right. But in the end, Krol's team prevailed after a hectic afternoon in Nijmegen: 0-1.
The biggets turn of events took place halfway the second half. Maarten Stekelenburg had to be replaced when he suffered a mild concussion after a collision with NEC's Denneboom. Stekelenburg was the third first goalkeeper this season who suffered an injury. After Bogdan Lobont hurt his knee in the away match at PSV in October 2004 when he was the first goalkeeper, Hans Vonk underwent the same turn of events some weeks ago. And now, it was Stekelenburg's turn.
It went on to become the match of the goalkeepers. In the first half, Maarten Stekelenburg twice denied Romano Denneboom a goal. Ajax had been dangerous mainly through Hatem Trabelsi and NEC's 'keeper Dennis Gentenaar really only had to save on a shot by the Tunisian defender.
In the second half, Gentenaar had more to do. Ajax were awarded a penalty in the 52nd minute, when Trabelsi had been brought down.
Wesley Sneijder went to take the spot kick. Gentenaar saved, but Maxwell fired in the rebound and the ball came back again. Right to the spot where Hedwiges Maduro was and the young midfielder scored his first goal for Ajax 1: 0-1.
It was the deciding goal, but that was also thanks to substitute goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont. Maarten Stekelenburg had to be taken off in the 68th minute, Lobont came on and seven minutes later, NEC were awarded a penalty. Lobont faced Rob Wielaert, anticipated where the ball would go and saved the spot kick. NEC put Ajax under pressure after that, but the team from Amsterdam held on for the three points. ,,Luck was on our side, Ruud Krol admitted. ,,We did not play well and we didn't show what we are capable of.