Arsenal (1) 1 - 1 (1) Ajax|
Highbury, Tuesday 18th February 2003
UEFA Champions League, stage 2 match3
Looks like the group could go down to the wire now, with
us Ajax and Valencia all level on 5 points. Roma are virtually
out having lost at home to Valencia, and if they lose in Spain next week they'll have very little to play for in their last 2 matches (although another draw between Ajax and Arsenal would leave them still not mathematically out).
Ajax started poorly, and Arsenal capitalised after just 4 minutes. An Ajax attack was broken in the D on the edge of our penalty area, and Vieira brought the ball forward before feeding
Bergkamp who was just forward of the centre circle. He spotted Wiltord's unmarked run on the left and played a quick pass into
Sylvain's path. He took the ball into the box and, from a narrow angle, drilled it through the keeper's legs at the near post.
But we failed to capitalise on the period of domination with another goal, and Ajax equalised against the run of play just over 10 minutes later. They won a free-kick wide on their left, a few yards inside our half. Cole was caught out as it was looped cross-field to De Jong on the edge of the box. He beat Ashley rather too easily and popped the ball past Seaman who had no chance.
Although Arsenal had more chances from then on, Ajax came into the game more... defending in depth most of the time, but looking
dangerous on the break at times too. Pires hit a great shot just wide from the edge of the box having done well to create the opportunity for himself, and then when put in for a clearer chance inside the box he miskicked the ball high and wide.
David Seaman failed to come out for the second half, having suffered a hip injury. But Stuart Taylor did well in his place. There were a few dodgy moments when he had to come out a long way but he dealt with them, including one time when he had to head the ball clear from the D. Up at the other end, Ajax's keeper looked uncomfortable and dropped the ball a few times,
but we were never quite able to get to it. One time Jeffers nearly got to it (he'd come on for Gilberto, a striker for a midfielder in response to Koeman's defensive tactics - they seemed to have settled for a draw in for the first half hour of the second half). But the keeper was lucky that it was just wide of the post so that there was no point in Franny just trying to bundle it over the line. Still, it came out to Henry whose snatched shot went well wide.
There were good chances at both ends in the last few minutes. Taylor came out to meet a long ball forward and didn't get there, but just did enough to put the striker off so that he
could only bounce the ball out of play wide of the post. Kanu, who'd come on for Bergkamp, was set up by Franny but blasted over.
It wasn't a good game but any stretch of the imagination. Dennis produced the only moment of real magic, with a swivel and shot from the edge of the box which just shaved the outside of the post.
At the start of the group it looked like Ajax were very much the outsiders of the 4 teams. But despite their injury problems that's clearly not the case now. Their young replacements showed a lot of skill and bottle, and their remaining games against Arsenal and Valencia are both in Amsterdam. As for Arsenal, we really need to win next week.