Ajax wasn’t able to follow up on last week’s win against FC Twente in today’s game against FC Utrecht. Where Ajax defeated FC Twente, a competitor for the title, by 1-0, and also easily defeated FC Utrecht 0-3 in the cup match, Ajax suffered a disappointing loss of points against FC Utrecht in the Amsterdam ArenA this time. Ryan Babel ensured an early lead, but an own goal by Fabian Sporkslede in the second half couldn’t be made up.
Eleven days after winning the cup match, Ajax faced off against FC Utrecht again, the Eredivisie was the backdrop for this meeting in the Amsterdam ArenA. It wasn’t a pressure cooker like it had been in Utrecht, mainly because the guests had left their own fans at home. Both line ups were relatively unchanged compared to the ones for their cup meeting. For Ajax, it was Vermeer who was the keeper, and not Cillessen, who plays the cup matches. Frank de Boer had also left Derk Boerrigter out of the selection. “I expect more from Derk than what he’s delivering”, said the coach beforehand, explaining his reason for starting Jody Lukoki. “Also, I think that Sana can be dangerous on the left side if he comes in, and Daley Blind goes in at the back.” FC Utrecht had to do without key player Edouard Duplan who was out due to an injury, but on the other hand, Jacob Mulenga was making his return.
In the cup match against Utrecht, Ajax was enjoying a 2-0 lead after fifteen minutes. At the 12:30 start- which resulted in a quiet protest in the Zuid stands- in Amsterdam, this achievement had also been a possibility. Ryan Babel scored in the sixth minute after a beautiful attack via Christian Eriksen, who had been sent in deep by Jody Lukoki. The swift right winger’s pass was tailor made for Babel, 1-0.
Around the fifteen minute mark, Ajax came into a three on three situation twice. Both occasions weren’t played out right. Former Ajax player Cedric van der Gun had no fewer than two good opportunities to tie the game, but he failed both times when he came face to face with Vermeer. The Ajax keeper, who has been called up to the Dutch national team this week for the first time, gave everyone a scare when he remained on the ground and hit the ground hard with his hand after duel with Mulenga. But physiotherapist Pim van Dord fortunately got him back on track. His colleague on the other side of the field distinguished himself in the closing minutes of the first half. Robbin Ruiter stopped Blind and Sana from scoring thanks to his quick reactions after these two players came into prime scoring positions after nice attacks. “We missed the briskness needed to build on our lead”, observed De Boer. “We had two sure chances to do that. And we should have made good on them.”
In the second half, De Boer brought in Fabian Sporkslede in for Christian Poulsen, who injured his right ankle. The substitute was decidedly unlucky, as in the sixth minute after the break, his header on a Kali pass went unstoppably past Vermeer into his own goal, 1-1. “Fabian couldn’t help it”, said De Boer. “This was typical of this match. We weren’t at the level today to impose ourselves on Utrecht.” This was a totally different situation than for the game in Utrecht, when Ajax in the same minute had sealed up the match thanks to an Eriksen goal, 3-0. But this time the Dane didn’t manage to score. Ryan Babel seemed poised to improve the score for his team, but his attempt on a Lukoki pass bounced back out via the post.
De Boer tried to turn the tide by bringing in Lasse Schöne for Daley Blind – without success. The match was up for grabs in the second half and although Sana came close to scoring in extra time, and Mulenga posed another threat, the 1-1 score remained on the board – to the great displeasure of the fans. Ajax thus remains winless against FC Utrecht in competition play as of February 28, 2010. Next week, there will be no competition play due to interland football. “Maybe that’s a good thing”, said De Boer. “They guys can come back fresh. We need to do better if we want a shot at the titles. When you create so many opportunities you must be doing something right, but we didn’t manage to win the game. You can only get over that by working and fighting very hard.”