They went nuts after Ajax’s 1-0 win in the 92nd minute. On the field, in the stands, and definitely on the bench. Coach Erik ten Hag was also over the moon – on the field. Seated behind the desk for the press conference afterwards, he again appeared cool and collected. But still: “I enjoyed it”, is how the coach began his press conference.
Ten Hag continued: “The result was a relief, but I also enjoyed the atmosphere in the stadium, and the performance of two teams who were each going for the win. The fact that the game swung back and forth so much isn’t really ideal, but the transition moments were there. That was our doing, but it’s also a quality that Benfica has. It was just like the Southern European teams play, and they get the referee on their side. My players were getting annoyed, which wasn’t good.”
Six minutes before time,Ten Hag pulled out Van de Beek in favour of David Neres. “I knew that I needed to be patient with the substitution. Donny was exhausted. Neres brought more energy to the team. We remained dangerous. Was this my doing? Not really, because Dolberg and Van de Beek should have made the difference by that point.”
“At this level, opportunities like that should be converted into goals. But I have to give David a huge compliment. He needed to be unflappable and make the difference. And he did. He showed that we have a lot in our arsenal, and that we need a lot in our arsenal.”
And then the standing in the pool, which Ajax leads together with Bayern Munich. Could the coach have predicted beforehand that Ajax would have 7 points midway through the group phase? “No, I’m not such a dreamer. But we learn fast and if we continue to progress this way, then we definitely have the chance to be in the Champions League after the winter break.”