‘We should have won the final’

‘We should have won the final’

Ajax U 17 and the ABN AMRO Future Cup finals against Anderlecht isn’t a winning combination for Ajax. For the third time in six years, the Ajacieds conceded the finals to their Belgian counterparts. Anderlecht celebrated on Monday after penalty kicks and evened Ajax’s number of titles.

In regular time, two times thirty minutes, there was no score. Anderlecht won the series of penalties, 4-3. “It was a match with barely any opportunities”, said Matthijs de Ligt, who was selected as the player of the tournament. This didn’t make him especially happy. “The disappointment of losing the final is overpowering”, said the strong central defender with a sad expression. “We just should have won.”

Frank Peereboom was of the same opinion. The coach saw his Ajax U17 miss the only big opportunity of the match. From a great position, Reda Boultam shot over in the first half. Moreover, neither team gave an inch. “We were evenly matched, Anderlecht has a good team, with many strong individual players. But so do we.”

These creative players weren’t able to make the difference in the finals. “Our tank ran empty”, said Peereboom. “That’s logical. Some players played five one-hour matches in three days.” Normally, U17 matches consist of two forty-minute halves.

Ajax began the penalty kicks with a goal by captain Carel Eiting, after which Anderlecht missed. The first blow had been struck, but in the end things ended badly. Since Donyell Malen and Jorg Ooievaar missed their shots, Johan Sampaoli finally took the deciding shot. The midfielder made good and, just as he had in the semi-finals against Porto, scored the winning penalty kick.

Although the conclusion was disappointing, Ajax U17 can look back with satisfaction. “It was a fantastic weekend”, said Peereboom. “As a group, we took good steps, and teh players got some great experience. In addition to that, we played three very good matches and put Ajax on the international map.”

De Ligt ended the tournament with a personal distinction. “I had hoped, but not expected to win”, was the central defender’s reaction. The U17s won’t be able to lick their wounds for long. “On Wednesday we’re playing our next match. We need to shift our focus.”

* Galatasaray wins the Fair Play-prize