After handily defeating Slovan Bratislava (5-0) on Thursday, Ajax struggled against Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday. Martin Jol's team created chance after chance, but failed to convert even a single one. The match ended as it had begun: 0-0.
Boss Martin Jol had chosen an offensive concept, with Ismaïl Aissati and Siem de Jong in midfield and Urby Emanuelson, Luis Suarez and Dennis Rommedahl in attack. The intentions were clear; put Sparta under much and early pressure and score as many goals as possible. Ajax could have scored within the first minute. The cross went to a wide-open Siem de Jong, but he missed the ball completely.
It would prove to be iconic for the whole match. Ajax built attack after attack and it seemed a matter of time before the goals would come. But De Jong missed another chance and Luis Suarez, marked very well by 20-year-old defender Nick Viergever, could not repeat his production of Thursday. The captain had enough chances, but he was either defended well or he was just a bit out of position. He also hit the bar twice.
By bringing on left-winger Marvin Zeegelaar, Jol hoped to bring some variation in his team's attacks. Zeegelaar had no chances at all and that was exceptional, because after an hour the pressure on Sparta had risen to seemingly unsustainable level. But almost miraculously the ball refused to pass the goal line. Miralem Sulejmani came on for Siem de Jong in the 73rd minute and he almost immediately had a huge chance, but he failed miserably. ,,I betted on Sulejmani, because when he came on against RKC, he had at least four good chances. He should have made one today. But if not, then Dario Cvitanich will get a chance to prove himself next time'', Jol said.
In added time, Ajax seemed to save the day after all. Suarez fired, but former Ajax player Emmanuel Boakye headed the ball off the line. ,,You can't say that missing all those chances is only a matter of bad luck", Jol said. ,,And neither was it fatigue from Thursday, because we kept the initiative. I was fairly pleased with our play in the second half. We created so many chances. With forty shots on goal you can not say we played badly."