Ajax ended its training week in De Lutte with a narrow practice match win against FC Emmen (0-1). Defender André Ooijer crowned the match with a goal in the sold out Univé Stadium. It spoke volumes about Ajax’s performance that it was Ooijer, substituting for the injured Jan Vertonghen, who lifted the tired team to victory.
“We had a good week in De Lutte, we trained well”, says Frank de Boer after the win against the Jupiler League club Emmen. The ‘training well’ was perhaps the main cause of the mediocre performance in the east of Holland. “There was some fatigue today in Emmen. It wasn’t clean. Because of that, especially in the first half, we were often sloppy. That was clear by three, four, five balls. Some guys weren’t sharp. Although this match reflects, of course, just one moment in time.”
It happens regularly that players struggle with a practice match after an intensive week of training. De Boer’s men were shown up by their fellow players from the home team, both in terms of hunger and sharpness. The packed stadium (all 8.600 spots were taken) gave them the needed push.
The Emmen natives came the closest to scoring thanks to centre forward Ruud ter Heide (header) and Randy Wolters (shot deflected by Maarten Stekelenburg). FC Emmen didn’t manage to score in the fourth practice match of their preparation. But, thanks to Ooijer, Ajax did – the veteran struck gold around the hour mark. The team from Amsterdam haven’t given up a goal in three practice matches. They’ve also defeated VV Buitenpost (0-4) and AZSV Aalten (0-11).
Aras Özbiliz got the nod as centre forward again in Emmen. The attacker worked hard and was one of the few Ajax players who looked sharp. “Aras is very fit”, De Boer praised his centre forward. Left back Daley Blind, who, with captain Stekelenburg, is the only Ajax player to stay on for ninety minutes, was also on his game. Attempts from Lorenzo Ebecilio and substitute Dico Koppers respectively ended up on the post and the crossbar. Ajax did create opportunities, even though they were few and far between.
In line with his philosophy, coach De Boer granted playing time to some of the younger Ajax players in Emmen, and with that, an opportunity. After a scoreless first half, Ajax was starting to look more and more like an upscale version of Jong Ajax. Miralem Sulejmani’s assist to Ooijer broke the spell on the artificial turf in Emmen. “I’m satisfied with how the young players performed”, said De Boer on a positive note. “They adapt well.” He was obviously less pleased about having to go without Vertonghen. “When you see how he trained last week…Vertonghen really masters defence. It’s really hurting us that he’s not available; we miss his experience, too. André (Ooijer) can replace him, very well, in fact. But he’s right footed, and we’re putting him on the left in the heart of defence. That’s not ideal for position play.”
De Boer and his players will enjoy a day off on Sunday. On Monday, they continue their preparations with a six day training week in Germany. Regensburg (Wednesday) and 1.FC Nürnberg (Saturday) will be the opponents. De Boer: “These weeks make up the beginning of our preparations. We need to be super fit in six weeks.”