Superior Ajax fail to put up big numbers against Vitesse

Again, this time in the home match against Vitesse, Ajax were sharp, daring and creative. But just as in the match against FC Utrecht a week ago, the good football hardly paid off in goals. A deflected shot by Pienaar meant 1-0 in the 28th minute and the South-African Man of the Match made it 2-0 in added time. ,,This time it did not hurt us that we left so many opportunities unused, because, unlike in Utrecht, we did not lose any points", a satisfied coach Ronald Koeman said.

Three players were met with extra applause before the match. John O’Brien, for being back in the line up after being sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury for five months and Richard Witschge because cheering on the man from Amsterdam is a tradition among the fans. One player from Vitesse was also cheered. The crowd passionately thanked Jan van Halst for his time at Ajax. The midfielder was expected to miss the game due to an injury, but apparently he had worked extra hard to be able to play this weekend. However, when he hyperextended his leg in the second half, the former Ajax player had to come off. Again he received a comforting ovation.

Van Halst had to be extra alert in the opening stages, when his old club simply outplayed his new club in the first fifteen minutes. It seemed the players wanted to make it up to the supporters after playing very carefully against Arsenal last Wednesday.

Hungry Ajax had three great chances in the first fifteen minutes. And the home side played in a 'strange' formation. With Andy van der Meyde suspended and Mido demoted, there were only two forwards in the line up, Boukhari en Ibrahimovic.

Both started up front, but the most interesting part was the midfield. Sneijder, Galasek and Pienaar were regulars, but it must have surprised Vitesse that Hatem Trabelsi was Ajax's right midfielder, with Nigel de Jong behind him. Koeman: ,,I wanted more depth and that is part of Trabelsi's game. I could have moved Pienaar to that position, but he is better as a central midfielder. He proved that today. Steven was the best player out there today and he scored twice, which is rare for him. We know Trabelsi's drive, so I pposted him as a right half. It worked well in the first half, in combination with De Jong. It saves Hatem about forty metres he did not have to run. There will be many more games. That's also why I took him off in the second half.”

The Tunsian defender felt just fine in his role as the team's right midfielder. Time and time again he went deep on the right side, sending away gorgeous passes. The best one came in the thirteenth minute, to Wesley Sneijder, but the young midfielder's attempt at goal was competely off. Trabelsi himself had some chances to score. Goalkeeper Jevric made an error and the ball ended up right before Trabelsi, but his effort lacked power. Trabelsi: ,,I am happy with my game, but this position is not something for the future.”

After Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been stopped twice by Jevric, Pasanen had gotten off damage-free after allowing Stone a good chance and Sneijder had hit the post with a smooth strike, finally a goal was made in the 27th minute. Steven Pienaar received the ball from a corner kick and his deflected shot went in: 1-0. Not a great score considering the dominance of Ajax and the poor form of the Vitesse defence. Koeman had seen the same thing: ,,Not many matches can be decided at an early stage. We created five or six chances and it was only 1-0 through a deflection. That was the only negative point of our performance.”

It brought up the 'Mido story' again after the match. Koeman: ,,Everone agreed that we took the only possible measure. Of course he was not only suspended for not attending a sponsor meeting, that can happen to everybody. If you mess up in terms of discipline, say, eight times, that is possible, but not 25 times. Are we getting another striker soon? Zlatan has proved that he can be productive and every striker has a time when he does not score. But we do need another forward and our options are limited. We can only look on the Dutch market. We will investigate the possibilities. Right now, we are thinking to hire someone to the end of the season.”

Scoring ability was sorely lacking this Sunday afternoon. After half time as well. Nourdin Boukhari played a big part in his team's dry spell. The fomer Sparta player had plenty of opportunities to score, but to his horror everything failed. Only Pienaar could beat Jevric. After he was voted Ajax player of the match, he managed to pass Vitesse's 'keeper once again. With that the match, that was never close due to Vitesse's poor form, in the end got a somewhat respectable score: 2-0.