AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Ajax Amsterdam are showing no ill effects from the sale of several key players in the off-season, as well as the departure of coach Erik ten Hag, as they began their Champions League campaign in style with a 4-0 home win over Rangers.
The new-look Ajax side, who travel to Anfield next week to face Liverpool, maintained a high tempo, dominated possession and both outpaced and outmuscled their Scottish opponents.
“I have seen an Ajax that radiated a lot of fun and energy, those are the basic conditions to play a good match,” said delighted coach Alfred Schreuder after his European debut.
Ten Hag’s replacement was not scared to try something new, employing Ghanaian midfielder Mohammed Kudus as centre forward for the first time and getting his players to continually switch positions, making it tough for their visitors to defend.
Kudus was among the scorers as Ajax claimed a 3-0 half-time lead before adding one more before the final whistle.
“Tactically we made good choices, but that is often not the point at all,” said Schreuder, who has seen Antony, Ryan Gravenberch, Sebastien Haller and Lisandro Martinez all sold in recent weeks.
“A coach can pat himself on the back, but that’s total nonsense. I’ve seen a team that’s done it with unity, that’s the most important thing.”
With the arrival of Steven Bergwijn from Tottenham Hotspur, Schreuder does have options and used them to good effect on Wednesday.
“I was really happy with how Kudus played but we know from before that he could play the No. 9 role. I thought Dusan Tadic went well on the right hand side but he is probably better on the left, but I’m not taking Steven Bergwijn away from there,” added Schreuder.
The performance earned high praise from TV analysts.
“We were always complimenting the way Ten Hag’s team played, but this was next level,” said former Dutch international Theo Janssen.
“Under Ten Hag there were finite patterns but now the whole team interchanges. They do it so well.”
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)