‘Eredivisie in Europe’ Week 1 – This week was dreadful
Barcelona 4 – 0 Ajax: The teacher gets schooled (Michiel Jongsma)
Considering the stature of Barcelona and Ajax, the amount of silverware the two have between them and especially the bond they have through many players, most notably Johan Cruijff, it was remarkable that it was the first time the two met in an official fixture. Even though the two teams have four European Cups between them, Ajax are very much a club of the 20th century, whereas Barcelona are the club of the 21st. It showed. The Catalans recorded a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
Frank de Boer had set his side up to prevent the right flank of Barcelona working in full flow, with defender Nickolai Boilesen starting out as the left forward in a 4-3-3 formation. The idea was to restrict Dani Alves and provide left back Daley Blind with some extra cover. After 15 minutes, the plan seemed to be working but a clumsy challenge from young defender Stefano Denswil resulted in a free kick, which was curled home by Lionel Messi. All hope was shattered in the second half, when Messi scored his second and third, with Pique heading home a Neymar cross in between. The 4-0 victory failed to reflect Barcelona’s frailties at the back and at Ajax, Barcelona loanee Bojan was a constant threat.
In the end, the gulf in class was simply too big for Ajax to get anything out of the match. Furthermore, it didn’t exactly help that Ajax (mainly Christian Poulsen) failed to adhere to one half of the Cruijff adage ‘Don’t mark their best player, but cut off the lines to him’. With AC Milan beating Celtic 2-0, Ajax face a tough task when Milan come to the Amsterdam ArenA on Matchday Two. A second straight defeat would consign any hope of progressing to the dustbin.
PSV 0 – 2 Ludogorets Razgrad: Anything you can do, I can do worse (Michiel Jongsma)
For a long time, Dutch teams believed that they couldn’t be beaten by teams they weren’t able to write. After the rise of the Ukranian teams, the perception changed to ‘We can’t be beaten by anyone of whom we can’t write the name down bar the Ukranian teams’. Soon the Russian clubs joined that list and now even the Bulgarians have joined the party. A lacklustre PSV side made it five games without a win, losing two in the process. In a Philips stadium filled only to around one third of its capacity, rank outsiders Ludogorets were victorious and the 0-2 win didn’t even flatter to deceive.
After a first half in which Ludogorets were the biggest threat without actually scoring, the second half saw PSV plunge to new depths. Some sloppy defending and rash coming out of Jeroen Zoet gave Bezjak the chance to open the score in the 60th minute. Fifteen minutes later, the game was done and dusted when the Dutch 20 year old Virgil Misidjan, apparently deemed not good enough by any Eredivisie side after his relegation with Willem II, hit the post with a shot from the left and was allowed to tap in his own rebound. In the other game in the group (Group B), Dinamo Zagreb were beaten at home by Chernomorets Odessa (1-2). PSV now face an uphill battle in a group of tongue twisters. How times have changed.
Maccabi Haifa 0 – 1 AZ : Painful to watch, but a result nonetheless (Nikos Overheul & Michiel Jongsma)
The dies horribilis for Dutch football ended on a relatively high note with AZ’s 0-1 victory against Maccabi Tel-Aviv. The performance that went along with the win was as poor as PSV’s defeat earlier that night, however. AZ were saved by some woeful shooting by the Israelis. Maccabi easily outshot Gert-Jan Verbeek’s team even before AZ went ahead, but only managed to get 3 of their 22 shots on target (albeit 17 shots came from outside the box).AZ had the good fortune of scoring after a series of blunders by the Maccabi defence which resulted in AZ’s only proper chance of the match. Verbeek’s team demonstrated a notable lack of creativity even when playmaker Maarten Martens came on. We had our own thoughts on the games:
First PSV and now AZ (mainly goalkeeper Esteban) performing like they want to make our website and twitter redundant on the Thursdays.
— BeNeFoot (@BeNeFoot) September 19, 2013
While it is fun to keep on hammering home the negatives from the game , it was a very welcome victory for Dutch football. The goal scored by Johann Berg Gudmundsson sums up the game quite nicely, so I suggest you take a look. The Icelandic international has been in good goalscoring form lately with Verbeek saying “He wasn’t playing up front (for his country) for nothing”. Defeating a str0ng Maccabi team in their own back yard means AZ have taken a big step towards qualifying for the knock-out stage. Tonight’s performance should give Verbeek pause for thought however, as it’s quite unlikely AZ will be as lucky in the remaining group stage matches. AZ will host PAOK in two weeks and if they manage to get a result there, things could be looking good for the Alkmaar side. Let’s not get carried away but maybe, just maybe, AZ will be carrying the torch for the Dutch in the New Year, as they have in the past.