Relief about draw in Alkmaar

Who still thinks a goalless draw is boring, was not in stadium Alkmaarder Hout on Sunday. There, AZ and Ajax played a spectacular match, that ended in 0-0. Coach Ronald Koeman thought the draw was a good result for his team.

The quastion before the provincial derby was whether Ajax could bounce back after the dramatic defeat in Munich four days earlier. The UEFA Champions League match had caused quite an upheaval and a meeting between management and technical staff was necessary to get everybody back on the same page. Within the group there was another sort of tension: ,,The moment was important to get a good result, for the confidence of the team'', said Ajax boss Koeman.

As Koeman had announced earlier, domestically Ajax will play in the club system, meaning 4-3-3. That, Koeman also did against AZ. Nicolae Mitea and Mauro Rosales occupied the wings in the Alkmaarder Hout. Yannis Anastasiou took Wesley Sonck's place as the central forward and because Tomás Galásek is fit again, Wesley Sneijder had to watch from the bench for more than 70 minutes. ,,We have a three-men midfield. Galásek is a mainstay so that leaves two spots, for which we have several players. That's why Sneijder did not play now, and for no other reason'', Koeman explained.

AZ, who had played a UEFA Cup match days before, were the better and more agressive team in the first half, and that resulted in a string of chances. Bogdan Lobont was on good form and kept a clean slate for the third consecutive league match. ,,I chose for Stekelenburg at the start of the season", said Koeman. ,,Now Lobont has kept a clean sheet in three league matches and allowed four goals in an international match. We are going to take our time to think about the goalkeeper situation.''

After halftime Ajax were the better team on the pitch. Still Rafael van der Vaart, who played his 100th league match for Ajax, was the most agressive Ajax player, but there was more structure in the play of the Amsterdam team. It soon resulted in a good chance for Steven Pienaar, who fired in the near corner but saw his effort stopped by Henk Timmer.

Ten minutes into the second half Yannis Anastasiou could have scored when he shot on goal after a cross by Maxwell. The Greek striker just missed, the ball going on the wrong side of the post. ,,We should have scored once out of those two chances'', Koeman said. His team played with a man more for the last 20 minutes, after Kew Jaliens was sent off after fouling Van der Vaart when the referee had already blown the whistle. But despite the superior numbers, Ajax did not score and AZ did not have the energy it displayed earlier in the match. ,,I cannot blame the team'', Koeman said. ,,The way we fought, is positive. We could have excecuted better, but I can live with this draw.''