In the end Ajax lost 3-0. 4-0 on aggregate. Both the score line in both legs didn’t paint the full picture. Ajax was unlucky in the first leg, and more so in front of goal in the second. But that’s not to take anything away from Spartak Moscow, who were clinical at home and took their opportunity in Amsterdam.
In the Moscow game Ajax started slowly, which immediately put them on the back foot, an uncharacteristic error by Jan Vertonghen led to the Spartak opener – scored by Dmitri Kombarov.
The second was courtesy of a fierce counter after Sulejmani was robbed in possession, Welliton the thankful recipient. And the third was unstoppable, well unless you’re not the absent Maarten Stekelenburg; Alex’s exquisite proving too much for third choice keeper Jeroen Verhoevan.
Where does Ajax go on from here, well for starters no need to panic in any way or be knee-jerk all of a sudden; Frank de Boer is months into his tenure, which promises to be bright but could get difficult all of a sudden if more key experienced players leave in the summer.
The squad/team is generally young; we know that, full of promising players including Lorenzo Ebecilio, Araz Özbiliz, Daley Blind, Christian Eriksen etc Ebecilio for example has only recently nailed down a first team spot and is still learning his trade on such a big stage.
The two games against Spartak should be used as a learning curve, you can learn a lot from victory but even more from defeat. There are plenty of positives to take from the European games played under De Boer, let’s not lose sight of that.
One thing that is imperative is, if the promise is to turn into riches then it’s vital the squad stays together but we know that will be unlikely. It seems the vicious cycle that has dogged Ajax will rear its ugly head this summer.
As for now there’s a domestic double still up for grabs, important the defeat is quickly forgotten as the season is far from over.
Sorry for not being on here for a while, I’ll try and correct that as the season enters its final stages.
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It doesn’t get any tougher than a trip to Eindhoven, especially facing an in-form PSV side, but Ajax can go with some degree of confidence (well, some).
Two excellent wins over Anderlecht have restored what looked to be a difficult period for De Boer’s men, which included a disappointing 2-2 draw away to Roda (2-0 up as well), in saying that they haven’t lost since that capitulation at Utrecht in late January. Since; 7 games, 6 wins, 1 draw, 17 goals and just 3 conceded.
Ajax hasn’t won at the Philips Stadion since March 2007, a famous 5-1 victory in which Wesley Sneijder stared in. Some of the more recent visits are ones to forget for De Godenzonen – but they know defeat could put a massive spanner in their title hopes, a win and it’s game on.
Both sides come on the back of reaching the Europa League round of 16, so it should be a cracking contest when two of Holland’s most successful sides meet.
PSV lost, Twente drew and Ajax won. 3pts behind the leaders (PSV and Twente joint on 47pts) meaning the title race is wide and truly open.
Despite being victorious 2-0 at home to De Graafschap, Frank de Boer was far from pleased, “It was a devil of a match” he said afterwards. In truth he was right, Ajax were again sloppy and try as their might they couldn’t kill of their visitors.
Both goals, in each half, to be fair were fortunate, but they all count. Mounir El Hamdaoui who much will depend on now seeing as Luis Suarez has left, seemed hungry enough to pounce of a loose ball to put Ajax in the lead. Siem de Jong doubled Ajax’s lead and sealed the 3pts, when the ball fortunately arrived at his feet from a deflected cross by Lorenzo Ebecilio.
Frank de Boer, speaking after the match: “The 1-0 before halftime was fortunate, and welcome, for us. During the break, I brought their attention to the fact that we could have been good on attack via the backs. That we should have played from right to left quickly, and that you can break an opponent that way. But that plan fell through, partly because we lingered too much,”
“That weak period remained until the end of the match. I’m disappointed about that, because we’ve been seeing improvements during the trainings. Fortunately, the players were also aware that things weren’t going well. No, this was more of a step backwards than forwards.”
Ajax would need to move up a gear or two, but as De Boer mentioned previously it would take time, patience is key and number 30 looks ever more likely now.
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Ajax remain 6 points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven after they comfortably won 3-0 away to NAC Breda. Goals from Siem de Jong and Miralem Sulejmani plus an o.g. from Rob Penders sealed the Amsterdammers sixth away win of the season.
In the first game of the post-Suarez era, Ajax took the lead after 13 minutes when old boy Leonardo was robbed by Daley Blind inside the penalty area after he was dilly-dallying – Blind squared to Siem de Jong who didn’t need a second invitation.
Ajax sealed the win halfway into the second half when Penders, inadvertently put the ball into the back of his net, after attempting to block a shot from the returning Mounir El Hamdaoui. Up until then Ajax rode out some wave of pressure from NAC.
Sulejmani added the cherry on the cake in the 90th minute, his third goal against the same opposition in less than a week – after he grabbed a brace in Ajax’s 4-1 win over NAC in the cup last week.
Ajax’s weekend could have been a lot better if the games at the Philips Stadion and De Grolsch Veste both ended dead on 90 minutes. Instead both PSV and FC Twente won their games against Willem II and Feyenoord respectively deep into added time, 2-1.
Liverpool have announced that they have agreed a £22.8million (€26.5m) deal with Ajax for striker Luis Suárez.
The Premier League club now have permission to discuss personal terms with the Uruguayan and a medical will take place.
Liverpool have been in talks with Ajax for most of January regarding a possible deal and they have now reached an agreement ahead of Monday’s deadline.
A statement on the Anfield outfit’s official website read: “Liverpool football club announced this afternoon that they had agreed a fee of up to €26.5m with Ajax for the transfer of Luis Suárez, subject to the completion of a medical.
“The club have now been given permission by Ajax to discuss personal terms with the player and his representatives.”
Suarez has recently intimated his desire to play in the Premier League.
The Ajax and Uruguay striker told the Sunday Times that though he once felt he could not thrive in England, the success of his fellow South American striker Carlos Tevez has now convinced him otherwise.
“(England) is a league that attracts me, a country where the football is really good,” said Suarez.
“Alongside the Spanish league it is the best in the world. In England you have a lot of clubs with aspirations to become champions and they are also very strong in the Champions League at the European level.
“I used to think that English football was not my style. But I saw Tevez play at Boca and Corinthians and I never imagined that he would play in the Premier League.
“When I see the way that Tevez plays there I think I can be a big name in England. It’s because of the energy, and the spirit they put into the game in England. Now, I think it’s a kind of football that suits me.”
Suárez joined Ajax in 2007 after a spell at Groningen and has scored 112 goals in 158 matches for the Amsterdam side.
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The honeymoon period is over. Important tests, is how Jan Vertonghen, last Friday, described the week awaiting Ajax, with the away match against FC Utrecht and NAC Breda, and the midweek cup match against NAC. At FC Utrecht, the first of these tests ended very badly. Ajax missed a golden chance to close the gap on Eredivise leaders PSV Eindhoven to just a point as they were comprehensively beaten at FC Utrecht.
A win for Frank de Boer’s men would have been just the tonic they needed as speculation over striker Luis Suarez’s future intensifies, but the Amsterdam club fell horribly short, historically away trips to Utrecht haven’t been the best for Ajax (despite winning 3 of the last 4 visits).
De Boer chose for the same line-up as last Wednesday against Feyenoord for this match in Stadion Galgenwaard. That meant that Daley Blind was on left back once again. Urby Emanuelson was absent in the Domstad. The dyed in the wool Ajax player is Milan-bound. According to de Boer, the transfer is as good as complete, save for a few details.
“We would have preferred to keep him, but Urby made it clear that he was ready to leave. I would have rather seen him stay for another six months. Urby is a top Ajax player, and I wish him all the best with AC Milan. We’re going to do our best to make sure he can say a proper goodbye to the club and the supporters. We need to solve the issues created by his departure internally. Firstly, with Blind. It’s up to him to show us that he’s ready for this.” Emanuelson’s absence freed up a spot on the squad for midfielder Rodney Sneijder. The 19 year old Ajax player (on the bench with number 43), Wesley’s brother, has been in Ajax’s youth training program since 2000, and had a taste of the real work ahead in his hometown.
A first-half brace from Edouard Duplan set the tone for Utrecht, with Ismo Vorstermans wrapping things up late on.
The home side set their stall out early on, hitting the post in the 21st minute.
A cross from Michael Silberbauer was met by the head of Frank Demouge who was unlucky to see his effort rebound back into play.
It did not hold up Utrecht’s charge for too much longer, though, with Duplan breaking the deadlock inside the next 60 seconds.
Duplan slipped in to steal the ball in midfield, stormed down the right channel and into the box from where he slammed home an unstoppable drive to put his side ahead.
With Ajax reeling from that, they found themselves furher behind two minutes later, with Duplan again on target.
Kevin Strootman’s cross drew out and cleared Maarten Stekelenburg, allowing Duplan to nod home unchallenged from inside the six-yard box.
Demouge was an impressive figure for Utrecht and he saw another header go close before the break, this time the brilliance of Stekelenburg keeping him out.
Utrecht’s defence had been resolute but, their standards dropped momentarily after the break as they nearly let Ajax in.
Jacob Lensky tried to play the ball back to goalkeeper Michel Vorm but, failed to notice the lurking Miralem Sulejmani who nipped in but was unable to get the better of Vorm who did well to make himself big.
That proved to be Ajax’s last chance of getting back into the game as, with seven minutes remaining, Silberbauer centred for Vorstermans who did the rest.
After the game De Boer said: “This is a good learning process for our young team. Getting here is ‘easy’ for young players, but staying is much harder. That was clear this afternoon. They can’t always play a 6.5. A few of them played a 4 this afternoon. And then, against Utrecht at the top of their game, you fall flat on your face. During the break, I asked the players if the match was too early for them. It looked like a few of them were still asleep.”
Ajax must now regroup for the KNVB Beker tie at home to NAC Breda on Thursday.
In the end it was comfortable. In the end Frank de Boer’s record as manager reads: played four, won four, scored 6 and conceded none in 360 minutes of football.
As impressive as these stats are, what really should encourage De Boer and the fans is the performance on the pitch. When the former defender took over in December he outlined the way he wants the team to play – the Ajax way – this includes a true 433 formation with wingers and a playmaker in tandem with a number 9.
Daley Blind made a rare start for the first team; Lorenzo Ebecilo retained his place in the side as De Boer continued with the players in his last two games.
But De Boer made a slight change, he’s so far using a false no9 in the shape of Siem de Jong, his movement and all round selfless play has been crucial to the clubs recent form. He couldn’t have demonstrated as more eloquently against Feyenoord, a highlight in the second half, his combination with De Zeeuw in the box which should have been buried one of many Ajax chances.
Before they took the lead, Eriksen – who again had a sharp game – brilliant move into the box saw him latch onto the ball which drifted just wide. De Jong also had an opportunity to break the deadlock. Yet despite the scores still 0-0, Ajax did not panic and the goal came from an unlikely source, the right boot of Toby Alderweireld (2nd I’m the De Boer reign) who rifled a screamer from 25+ yards or so – woof indeed.
The second half began as the first ended with Ajax on top. Some of the new traits under De Boer were clear to see – opposite to how the team was going under Jol in the last months – the pressing of the forwards helped to regain possession and force Feyenoord into making mistakes. The width provided by Ebecilo and Suljemani stretched the game which helped the fullbacks Daley Blind and Van der Wiel push on and join in the attack.
A moment to praise the left flank: Ebecilo and Blind neither would have gotten a look in under Jol but with De Boer’s faith in the academy – players he knows – that confidence would filter to the players. Both young with bright futures ahead of themselves.
As long as the game was 1-0, Feyenoord were still in it even though they weren’t doing much, and Ajax put them out of their misery when Sulejmani was brought down inside the penalty box – penalty was given – Sulejmani got up, dusted himself down and tucked it away.
There was a debut for Jody Lukoki, whom De Boer described as a real classic right winger, for the brief moment he was on he showed enough signs that he could get a taste of more games, he ended the night nutmegging Tim de Cler of the pitch just moments before the fulltime whistle. Feyenoord still without a win in Amsterdam since 2005.
There were so many good individual performances: Siem de Jong, Eriksen, Blind, Ebecilo, Enoh, Vertonghen and Sulejmani.
Frank de Boer said he was pleased with his team’s performance but they should have scored more.
‘We need someone like Luis Suarez if we want to be champion,’ De Boer is quoted as saying by the AD. ‘That is why we won’t let him go to Liverpool. But we have won four matches without him.’
Up next is a trip to FC Utrecht and a chance to avenge the 2-1 defeat in the ArenA in the first half of the season.
What a week: What a breath of fresh air the win over Milan was, sure it may not have been against the strongest Milan XI or a XI that was really pumped up for the game as qualification to the next stage of the Champions League had been secured in the previous game-week, but that didn’t matter, what mattered was how the Ajax XI reacted to their new coach.
Before that game De Boer spoke of bringing the joy and prestige of playing for the club back to Ajax. But he also brought something back: the ‘Ajax way of playing’.
First of all: he gave clear instructions on how he wanted the shape of the team to be:
We played following the Ajax philosophy. With wingers (Sulejmani & Suárez) and a real number ten (Eriksen) and everyone did well at the job they were assigned beforehand. The wingers kept the field broad, and came in at the right times. And that’s only possible if the backs come up on time. For example, I saw Van der Wiel come up at least twenty times tonight. I hadn’t seen him do that in a long time. But he did it tonight. That’s the Greg we want to see. I think he was symbolic of the whole team tonight.
What was a shock before the game was the omission of leading scorer El Hamdaoui, starting the game on the bench with De Boer instead opting for Siem de Jong to be his ‘number 9′, the reason for this could very well be that De Boer wanted a forward who could hold the ball up and link with the wide players and the attacking midfielder and de Jong did this exquisitely. In fact he and Eriksen were doing no more of what was expected of Petersen – Bergkamp and Kluivert -Litmanen in days gone by.
Also most importantly was encouraging his players to not be afraid of making mistakes: “We showed guts tonight,” De Boer said satisfied. “Dare to play. It’s OK to make mistakes, but show some guts, on all positions.”
Ajax might not play like this every week, no one’s expecting that, but what is clear as De Boer put it after the game: “I know what they can do and they now need to keep showing it. I just hope the lads believe in what they can do. They can all play fantastic football.”
Another aspect of this new administration is De Boer’s core belief in the academy and following the Ajax tradition of promoting and playing the talents that have come through. Against Vitesse: his first league match in charge, no fewer than 11 of the 18 man squad have like him graduated from the Ajax academy including Lorenzo Ebecilio who alongside Rodney Sneijder (brother of Wesley also not part of the 18) trained with the first team with De Boer observing. Could this be a sign of things to come – more talents given a similar chance, De Boer himself saying, if they’re good enough, they are ready to train with the senior team.
And given his wonderful start, he followed the Milan win with victory over Vitesse, Ajax’s second league win in five; with the only goal coming from what could be the symbol of the new regime: Christian Eriksen. Ebecilio rounded of a solid debut and was subbed off for the last debutant Aras Özbiliz. Ebecilio continued the role assigned to Suárez in the San Siro – playing wide, De Jong continued as the ‘no9’ in the absence of El Hamdaoui as the rest of the team was unchanged. In fact 8 of the starting XI came through the youth ranks with an average age of 23.
First half Ajax was dominant, pressing when not in possession and making the pitch big when in possession: easier to retain possession this way. Second half Vitesse grew back in the game but Ajax could have (should have) put the game to bed with De Jong and Sulejmani both coming close.
At the full time whistle, if a picture can paint a thousand words, Ajax players were in smiles – the toll of the previous weeks maybe lifting as De Boer stood like a general on the touchline. With PSV drawing and Twente losing away to Heerenveen – the gap to the top has been reduced to 3pts. So far one of his three objectives when taking charge has been fulfilled: staying in Europe after the winter break, the other two: making sure the gap in the league doesn’t widen and the last staying in the KNVB Beker (game against AZ on 23rd December).
De Boer’s previous role with the academy, coaching Ajax A1 shouldn’t be underestimated, his knowledge and eagle eye of knowing who will make the grade could be very important next summer if some of the already names in the squad leave for pastures new. Already Eriksen and Alderweireld whose goal sealed Ajax’s win over AC Milan have both come out in praise of De Boer’s approach and spoke of the confidence he instilled in them plus the easiness of playing for him: both of course knowing him from their academy days.
Hopefully this win is the turning point and we can keep up the good work for the next few weeks. He gave me a lot of confidence to play both on and off the ball. Tonight I visualised some pictures in my head from those academy days and remembered how well things had gone for me – that seemed to work.
Everybody felt like it was a new start. The coach gave clear instructions about what to do and that was nice. Especially when you’ve gone through the youth academy it’s a safe and pleasent feeling.
From his words and actions his intentions are clear that he is continuing the ‘Ajax philosophy’ and accepts that he is the guardian of it. The glory days may not return yet but no doubt De Boer is travelling on the path his predecessors Louis van Gaal and Johan Cruyff took.
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Frank de Boer’s Ajax career came full circle when the former academy youth graduate coached his first game for the senior Ajax side – even if it’s the first of a temporary basis, it marks a watershed moment in his illustrious career.
Already coaching Ajax A1, since 2008, and assistant to Bert van Marwijk alongside former Oranje teammate Philip Cocu with the Dutch national side – de Boer’s first game couldn’t have come at a more spectacular surrounding at the San Siro.
As a player facing AC Milan holds fond memories, being part of the Ajax side that defeated them in the 1995 Champions League final. And what a debut as coach – recording a historic 2-0 victory at the San Siro, two spectacular goals from Demy de Zeeuw and Toby Alderweireld sealed the win the first time Ajax had won there in their history (their 2-0 group win in 1994 was played at the Stadio Nereo Rocco).
At the end of the game De Boer couldn’t hold back a smirk possibly not knowing he created new history for Ajax.
After the game De Boer jokingly commented “Football is quite simple” adding “The players followed the instructions I gave them” echoes of Cruyff’s “Simple football is the most beautiful. But playing simple football is the hardest thing” the legendary no14 describing Total Football in his own words.
“Ajax had to show the courage to take the game to Milan and that’s what we did,” De Boer said. “The team was positive and we showed our true ability. We really demonstrated the courage to try things. We showed the philosophy of Ajax, building from the back. It’s a positive thing, we were a real team,”
“The players followed the instructions and moved the ball from the back to the front, which was what I wanted to see. We held on to the ball well and I should congratulate the players for this, but they are an intelligent group.”
Before taking charge of the match Frank de Boer outlined his goals, speaking to Ajax TV he said: “I am tense as it is an important period for Ajax.
“Up to Christmas, we need to make sure we stay in Europe over the winter and we have the next round of the KNVB Beker (against AZ Alkmaar on 23 December). And obviously we can’t allow the gap in the Eredivisie to get any larger.”
Ajax are currently 5 points behind leaders PSV and the victory at the San Siro confirmed Ajax will be playing European football come spring time in the Europa League, however this still left De Boer unsatisfied.
“It is a shame that we are in the Europa League,” De Boer added in his post-match press conference.
“We were better than Auxerre and drew with Milan at home, but it is a lesson to our players that in the Champions League we have to concentrate in every game.”
In a playing career that spanned 17 years – de Boer made over 300 appearances for Ajax also playing for FC Barcelona, Galatasaray, Glasgow Rangers and finishing in Qatar with Al-Rayyan. He made over 100 appearances for Oranje and is only surpassed by Edwin van der Sar as Oranje’s most capped.
As a player he was famed for his exemplary distribution of the ball, whether it was long or short (see Bergkamp’s goal v Argentina, WC 1998), versatility: able to play across the defensive backline (starting out as a left-back and gradually making centre-back his own) and most famously his brilliant free-kicks.
His work with Jong Ajax hasn’t gone unnoticed, Mr. Ajax Sjaak Swart himself praising his work and complimenting his sticktoitiveness to the Ajax model and style of play.
“When it comes to playing football, movement on the field and attacking, I am close to Johan Cruyff’s philosophy,” De Boer said.
“I like the 4-3-3 formation; I know you need the right players for that, but if you want to find them, then you will.”
His appointment could mean more playing time for the likes of Christian Eriksen who he has coached with Jong Ajax, De Boer: “For his age he is a fantastic player. If he can keep on developing, he can become one of the best No10s in Ajax’s history.”
Eriksen repaid this belief by turning out a professional performance against Milan, he alongside Siem de Jong were the standout performers – Suárez playing his last game in 2010, Sulejmani, De Zeeuw and Enoh also impressed.
It might be this that got his named mentioned as a long term successor to Martin Jol couple of weeks ago from the Cruyff group (group of ex-Ajax players) who have been vocal in their criticism of the state of the club, in particular the de facto leader Johan Cruyff.
De Boer has also pledged to bring back the enjoyment and prestige of playing for the club.
“From where I’m standing the players at Ajax don’t look as if they are enjoying the game. They look whipped,” he added.
“That can’t happen to a top club. When I see NEC play one touch football without any opposition whatsoever from Ajax I think to myself: this can’t be happening. The players are to blame but we’ll have to find a solution together.”
Whether de Boer will be in it for the long term is yet to be seen, with the likes of Frank Rijkaard being touted if de Boer will only be a caretaker manager.
However De Boer has made no secret of wanting the job long term: “This is not how I thought it would happen but I am where I want to be. It’s a bit of a shortcut.
“I would like to stick around of course but that is for the club to say. I’m ready. A lot will depend on the next three weeks.
“I don’t want to change too much to begin with, but I have my own ideas and I want to leave my mark on the team in the future.”
One thing is for sure he joins an exclusive list of ex-players such as Michels, Cruyff, Blind and Van Basten who have turned out to coach the club they hold dear. And we wish him good luck, whether it be for the short term or the long term.
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AP – Martin Jol quit Monday as coach of struggling Dutch powerhouse Ajax and will be replaced by former Netherlands defender Frank de Boer, at least until the end of December.
Ajax said in a statement on its website it had agreed to Jol’s request to terminate his contract, two days after the club struggled to a 1-1 draw with lowly NEC Nijmegen to slip to fourth in the Dutch league. The four-time European champion also have been knocked out of the Champions League.
“I’m leaving this beautiful club with pain in my heart,” the 57-year-old Jol said. “We started something in the summer of last year that I wanted to finish. But I’ve come to realize that the expectations were too high after last season. We couldn’t live up to those expectations and that hurts.”
“The amount of criticism that the club has had to endure daily has led to unrest in the club and among players.”
Jol, who had coached Tottenham and Hamburg before moving to Ajax, led the club to second in the Dutch league last season and a place in the Champions League. But this season the club has struggled for form.
On Nov. 23 Real Madrid thrashed Ajax 4-0 in Amsterdam to underscore the gulf between Jol’s team and the European elite. Ajax is third in Group G and plays at AC Milan on Wednesday in the Champions League.
“I’m consciously doing this before AC Milan-Ajax is played,” Jol said. “The coming weeks are very important and I genuinely hope that something happens in the players’ group that will quickly turn it into a winning team again.”
Jol was strongly linked with a return to England with Fulham in July before deciding to stay with Ajax, and he could yet return to the Premier League. Newcastle sacked its manager Chris Hughton on Monday.
Ajax general manager Rik van den Boog released a detailed statement expressing his regret at Jol’s departure.
“Let me be clear that I respect, and am saddened by, Martin Jol’s leaving,” said Van den Boog.
“Officially, we’ve been having weekly meetings but we spoke to each other frequently besides that.
“Sports performance-wise, things aren’t going as well as they have previously and the question is can the tide be turned? That’s a hard question to answer.
“I think that Martin’s been struggling with the situation. Everyone has an opinion about Ajax. His job comes with enormous external pressure, and this pressure has been increasing.
“The fact that this has happened today doesn’t take away from the fact that last season was a fantastic one for us.”
De Boer, a key player in the great Ajax team that won the Champions League in 1995, has been coaching Ajax’s youth team since 2008 and was assistant to Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk at this year’s World Cup in South Africa, where the Dutch lost 1-0 in the final to Spain.
De Boer will take over from Jol at least until the Dutch Eredivisie’s winter break starts later this month, Ajax said in a statement, adding that it planned to announce a new coaching staff before the end of the year.