Football often is like life itself. Great moments and setbacks can follow each other in rapid succession, as Ajax learned Sunday afternoon. Four days earlier, the Amsterdam side reached one of its main goals (qualifying for the Champions League), the weekend after ended on a low note. In the first league match at home Ajax lost to rivals Feyenoord: 1-2.
The joy and relief that determined the mood in the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday were forgotten. Ajax had qualified for the prestigious and lucrative European competition, and a first step toward a successful season seemed to have been taken. The elimination of the Danish champions should also have been a morale booster for Danny Blind's men, who seemed to feel the pressure of having to get results this early in the season.
But four days after the win against Brøndby, Ajax could not play freely. As in the past weeks Blind's team couldn't convert their dominance in goals. The match against Feyenoord again showed that the midfield has trouble devloping offensive impulses. It was one of the reasons Markus Rosenberg could not be reached.
Angelos Charisteas played striker in the second half and that created a bit more danger. Feyenoord were leading 2-0 after 47 minutes and had to play with ten men after Ferne Snoyl was sent off with 20 minutes to play. Ajax put the opponent under great pressure and Charisteas revived the match ten minutes before the end when he scored from a good pass by Wesley Sneijder. But that was as far as Ajax got.
It could have been different if Ajax would have been more thorough in finishing chances, Blind said after the match. Feyenoord showed how it is done. The visitors had three chances in 90 minutes of football and converted two of them, through Kalou and Kuijt. ,,That's one of the reasons'', Blind said. ,,What good is a good passing game if you don't create chances? We played well the first ten minutes, then we got more and more careless.''
Blind tried to force a turnaround by bringing on Mauro Rosales for Nigel de Jong and letting Steven Pienaar play in midfield. Fifteen minutes before the end, Nourdin Boukhari replaced Julien Escudé. Hedwiges Maduro went back, Babel played next to Charisteas up front and Boukhari went to the left wing. Charisteas scored a few minutes later, but that was all for Ajax.