Inspiration-less Ajax cannot find a hole in tight defense Union Berlin: 0-0

Inspiration-less Ajax cannot find a hole in tight defense Union Berlin: 0-0
Brian Brobbey

NOS Soccer

In the Europa League intermediate round, Ajax failed to deal a blow to Union Berlin. The Germans stood their ground fairly easily in the Johan Cruijff Arena: 0-0. Next week is the return.

The current Bundesliga number two even scored a goal in Amsterdam midway through the second half, but Morten Thorsby saw his goal disallowed for hands after VAR interference.

No goal attempt

That second half was also a bit livelier, as Ajax did not even come to a single goal attempt before halftime. That statistic must have been music to Union coach Urs Fischer’s ears halfway through. Because his team stood like a house, especially before halftime.

Watch reactions from Ajax coach John Heitinga and defender Jurriën Timber below.

It was by no means sparkling what the Germans showed, but the home-playing Amsterdammers had no answer to Union Berlin’s compact style of play. Ajax created nothing and could barely reach the four forwards (Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus, Steven Bergwijn and Dusan Tadic).

Consequently, most of the threat came from Union Berlin, which had chances through Sheraldo Becker and Jerome Roussillon. Ajax, with Calvin Bassey at center back and Edson Álvarez back in midfield, did not suffer any damage.

Gerónimo Rulli boxes the ball away

Coach John Heitinga, successor to the previously sacked Alfred Schreuder, was once again required to make a tactical change and he substituted left back Owen Wijndal for striker Brian Brobbey. That meant Kenneth Taylor appeared in the build-up at left back and Ajax tried to put on a more offensive face.

That succeeded quite nicely at first. Brobbey had a good opportunity, but his acquisition with the chest was insufficient, allowing Union goalkeeper Frederik Rönnow to save. Ajax and the crowd cheered briefly.

Taylor in duel with Thorsby

Taking a little more risk did mean Ajax had to stay alert to Union Berlin outbreaks. In one of them goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli saved a header from the free Thorsby.

So the same Thorsby, ex-Heerenveen player, then scored a goal, after Álvarez and Taylor were fouled following a Roussillon cross. However, VAR detected hands by Thorsby leading up to the goal, leaving Ajax with a scare.

In the final 15 minutes, Ajax again failed to find a hole in the Germans’ defense, leaving the decision to be made next week in East Berlin.

The winner of the diptych qualifies for the Europa League eighth finals, which will be played on March 9 and 16.

Kayleigh Williams