On the day that Ajax drew Rapid Wien as their opponent for the third-round UEFA Champions League qualifying match, the team showed itself to be ready for the big leagues. Against VfL Wolfsburg, Ajax played convincingly for most of the match, although the final scored wasn’t reflective of this: 1-1.
Frank de Boer was satisfied at his team’s performance, especially in the first half. “I think we can look back with satisfaction. We did what we wanted to do, against an opponent who doesn’t let anyone walk over them. We also did well in terms of applying pressure. We started the second half a bit worse, but improved quickly. But our tank was empty at about the eighty-minute mark.”
Revenge is the key word in Ajax’s preparation. The disappointments of last season need to be quickly washed away, preferably with the lively football prescribed by the team’s house style. Ajax played with a number 10, Davy Klaassen, against Wolfsburg. The Amsterdam captain was supported at midfield by Riechedly Bazoer and Daley Sinkgraven.
Clearly, most Ajax fans are excited about the new season, and they showed up in strong numbers for this match against Wolfsburg. 49 thousand spectators came to watch Ajax’s home game. After the friendly matches against Dinamo Moscow (2-2 in Austria), FC Nordsjaelland (1-3 loss in Hardenburg) and Panathinaikos (2-0 win in Epe), they were finally playing in their home turf for the first time. And the Amsterdam fans were appreciative.
In order to charge all of his players equally, De Boer had planned two friendly matches on the same day. The first match – an Ajax combination team against Wolfsburg U23 – resulted in tame 1-1 draw.
Five hours later, Ajax 1 played again, and was lively in the first half, although the home team failed to overpower in the final minutes. There were many narrow misses. Anwar El Ghazi and Klaassen were stopped deep into the Wolfsburg box, and Bazoer, after a fluid attack, shot wide. Viktor Fischer had the biggest opportunity for Ajax. The Dane was free after an excellent heel-ball by Klaassen, but keeper Dieglo Benaglio stood in his path.
Wolfsburg opportunities were limited to one for Naldo in the firsst half. However, in the second half, the Germans came out of their shell. The invisible Dutch striker Bas Dost was of sever squad players who had to concede his spot. Among others, Kevin de Bruyne came on. The Belgian star shot wide in the 52nd minute from a prime position. It was one of three dangerous moments for Wolfsburg shortly after the break.
Ajax seemed taken aback, but quickly recovered. This recovery led to opportunities. El Ghazi tested Casteel’s fists, while Fischer shot wide after a sharp counter. De Boer made a double substitution after about one hour. The Ajax coach couldn’t have predicted that within no time at all, substitute Queenly Menig would play a prominent role. Three minutes after coming in, the forward sent a perfect pass onto Klassen’s head, who scored via the inside of the post.
Within one minute, Menig went from hero to zero. In his own half, he delivered the ball to De Bruyne, who outplayed an Ajacied and ended up scoring the tying goal: 1-1. A new Amsterdam highlight followed in the 73rd minute. The crowd chanted ‘we want to see Johnny’ for several minutes, and was finally rewarded. The lost son Heitinga was treated to a standing ovation upon his return to the ArenA. A bit later, new acquisition Amin Younes made his unofficial debut as well.
A reward, in the form of a win, wasn’t granted to Heitinga. Keeper Casteels personally ensured that this didn’t happen by rescuing a Lasse Schöne free kick from the upper corner, and also by saving a Menig shot out of the upper corner in extra time.