Every match is a moment to take stock. The final friendly in the preparation for the new season proves what a squad is capable of. On Friday Ajax concluded their tour of friendlies with a 2-3 victory over Werder Bremen. In the MEP-Arena in Meppen in Germany the Ajax collective looked like a well-oiled machine.
After the afternoon match against the Spanish Osasuna (a 1-0-victory in Emmen; Davy Klaassen scored) the Ajax caravan stopped in Meppen only hours later. ,,The framework will be visible against Werder Bremen’’, Frank de Boer had said a day earlier in a preview of the match. The framework referred to the Ajax manager’s ideal squad. Werder Bremen was confronted by a highly concentrated Ajax squad with the strongest possible line-up.
Compared to the 2012-2013 championship year De Boer had made a few changes to his squad. New acquisition Bojan Krkic was given the opportunity to shine as left-winger. The Spanish attacker with Serbian roots played for one half: enough to play a part in the 0-1 (Daley Blind) and his own 0-2. The right striker who is light on his feet gave the Ajax fans a taste of all the wonderful things they have to look forward to. Krkic made a good impression, leaving everyone wanting more.
Viktor Fischer is first choice for left-winger, and striker Kolbeinn Sigthórsson also started the new 2013-2014 football season looking fit. Siem de Jong, Christian Eriksen and controller Christian Poulsen are the trustworthy and familiar faces on midfield. Joël Veltman is a newcomer on the Amsterdam defence as central defender. The player from IJmuiden formed a duo with Niklas Moisander against Werder. First goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer had his trusted companions Daley Blind and Ricardo van Rhijn in left and right back position. On Friday evening it became clear with which eleven Ajax players De Boer wants to take on the challenge of achieving the fourth consecutive national title: the 33rd national title in club history. This friendly taster left everyone wanting more.
A good week before the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate, between AZ and Ajax, to be played on Saturday 27 July, Werder Bremen and Ajax treated the 7,100 spectators to an entertaining friendly. Poulsen was, as ever, the Ajax player with the greatest fighting spirit. The experienced Danish player never once avoided a confrontation. Poulsen explicitly pushed the boundaries with the utmost concentration, but at the same time was a point of calm amidst all the eager Ajax players.
It was Poulsen’s fighting spirit that laid the groundwork for Blind’s goal. The experienced player won his very physical one-on-one for Ajax. The ball then went via Sigthórsson and Krkic and landed at Blind’s feet. Without hesitation the left back player pelted the ball at close range, high and extremely hard: 0-1. Seven minutes before halftime the Amsterdam club took a justified lead: Ajax was rewarded for its hard work against the players form Bremen.
Five minutes later Bojan managed to double the lead. After prep work by Eriksen and De Jong the right-winger on loan from FC Barcelona scored diagonally: 0-2. Two minutes later Krkic’ performance in Meppen came to an end. The build-up and acclimatisation require great care. It had been predetermined that the attacker would play for 45 minutes. Playing time was limited for the European Championship players Blind and Van Rhijn as well, as they had joined the team after the start of the preparations. Dico Koppers (sub for Blind) and Toby Alderweireld (Van Rhijn) came onto the German pitch after a good sixty minutes of friendly football. Added to the thirty minutes the Belgian played earlier in the day against Osasuna, Alderweireld played for a good hour on Friday.
Supported by a large group of fans who had travelled with them to Germany, Ajax continued the match with great passion. Shortly after halftime Eriksen’s shot only just went across the goal. Fischer also passed up a huge opportunity and some smaller ones to extend the lead against the Bundesliga club. Vermeer demonstrated his class by stopping a sharply inward curving shot by sub and former Dutch international player Eljero Elia. The Ajax player in the number 1 jersey successfully punched away the shot by his fellow countryman. Elia wasn’t the only former player from the Eredivie to be playing for Werder Bremen. Marko Arnautovic also plays for the Bremen club.
Fatigue got the better of the Ajax players in the final stage of the match. All their hard work during practice took its toll. There wasn’t too much damage done though: the result was a fine one. Five minutes before time Vermeer used his hand to stop a goal, but then he had to surrender to the rebound by Joseph Akpala. Eriksen secured the Amsterdam win once and for all when he slid the ball past goalkeeper Sebastian Mielitz who had come too far out of his goal (1-3). The 2-3 by Werder substitute Nils Petersen was nothing more than a statistic at the end of the day. What remained was the convincing impression Ajax made in Meppen.
,,I am very pleased with the first 70, 75 minutes’’, Frank de Boer reflected contentedly. ,,Despite the hard pitch we managed to move the ball around well. That worked to our advantage. The lesson we must learn now is to see the match through for the full ninety minutes. Sometimes you have to keep it simple. We let them score two goals in the final stage of the match. It was a good dress rehearsal for next week, the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate. We still have a good week to practice and to perfect our game.’’