Valery Lobanovsky Stadium’s mixed zone had both a satisfied and dissatisfied undertone. Martin Jol and scorer Jan Vertonghen look back on an eventful night in the Ukraine. “Going into it, you would sign up for 1-1”, said Vertonghen, pointing out the difference in the prospects before the first Champions League play-off match, and afterwards.
The 1-1 tie on Ukrainian soil is valuable, assessed the Belgian. “Especially since we wanted to score here. It’s nice to score, but it doesn’t matter that I was the one to make the goal. I always try to score, but it doesn’t always work out. I had seen earlier where there was space to score, and if the ball landed in that spot, I could score.”
Ajax survived a stormy opening phase. “We were a bit overwhelmed, and sloppy”, said Jol. “They were sharper. But we created opportunities. After that period, we pulled ourselves together and got them back. We should have scored a minimum of two goals tonight.” Ajax’s coach, a native of Scheveningen, hit the nail on the head. The gnawing feeling which remained afterwards had to do with the missed opportunities.
Vertonghen had that same gnawing feeling in the mixed zone. “A personal success like scoring is great, but I would have preferred to keep it 1-0”, continued the Belgian. Even better would have been a second Ajax goal. “I could ‘easily’ have scored from Luis’ corner. That ball was almost easier to make than my first opportunity, which did go in.”
The value of the tie lies mainly in the opportunities it offers for the home match. On Wednesday, August 25, Ajax and Dinamo Kiev meet in the Amsterdam ArenA. Ajax has a good chance to secure the prize – participation in the Champions League tournament. “Next week, we’re playing in a full ArenA, which we’ll call ‘Amsterdam’s Hell’ ”, said Jol, looking ahead. “Things have to get a bit crazy for us not to go through. Especially given what I’ve seen tonight. If we keep a cool head, we have what it takes.”
Come and support Ajax on August 25 in their second play-off match against Dinamo Kiev. Cheer Ajax on to the Champions League!