Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the cental figure in Ajax's preparation for the match against NAC. The Swedish striker was the subject of some controversy after the friendly international match Sweden - Holland which led to a team meeting on Friday. In Ajax's first home match on Sunday, a 6-2 victory against NAC Breda, Ibrahimovic was the best player.
It was a fitting end to a hectic week. Coach Ronald Koeman had to do without most of his players who were on international duty from Monday to Thursday. That in itself was not easy for the Ajax boss, as eight of his projected starters did not report back until Friday and thus had only two days to prepare for the match aginst NAC Breda.
Those two days also had to be used to extinguish an internal fire between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael van der Vaart. The captain was injured in a scrimmage with Ibrahimovic in the Sweden - Holland match and had to miss the match against NAC. Van der Vaart blamed his teammate, but after a team meating before Friday's training session, the situation had been solved.
But the fans still had their doubts about the Swede and he was met with some slight boos and whistles at first. ,,Then you have to wait and see how Zlatan reacts to that", said Koeman. The striker reacted in the only proper way, by being of great value to his club, playing brilliantly and scoring an amazing goal.
Soon, Ibrahimovic made the boos change into sounds of admiration. After NAC had scored first in the eleventh minute, the striker scored from a corner kick by Wesley Sneijder. From that moment, Ajax took control of the match. Before halftime Ajax took the lead and Ibrahimovic played a part in that goal too. He went after a ball which was crossed well by Tom de Mul and his presence alone was enough to worry Mike Zonneveld so much that the defender beat his own goalkeeper: 2-1.
Koeman was of course very happy with his forward. ,,I was worried how this match would turn out for Zlatan. He always plays with a drive, but he had a lot to deal with the past week. His first goal seemed to free him and he played a fantastic match after that."
The most fantastic thing he did was the way he scored the 5-1. Johnny Heitinga and Wesley Sneijder, who replaced the injured Van der Vaart, had put Ajax up 4-1 before Ibrahimovic picked up the ball from 20 metres out and never relinquished control of it until he put it in the netting. The striker moved his way past all NAC defenders, some of them even twice, and finished with his left. ,,That was a fantastic goal'', said Koeman. ,,I really enjoyed his game. For these moments the fans come to the stadium.''
It did bother Koeman that NAC scored once more. ,,We have given up four goals in two matches. That's too much. On a higher level those moments will prove crucial. We get many chances now, but if you play in Europe, that won't happen. But not considering the goals we allowed, we played the sort of football we wanted."
Maxwell scored the final goal of the match from an assist by Ibrahimovic: 6-2. A nice calling card to the home fans.