Ajax falls short of Champions League

30th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 August 2007, AMSTERDAM (AP) - Ajax is getting tired of missing out on Europe's top competition, after stumbling again on the final hurdle to reach the Champions League.

30 August 2007

AMSTERDAM (AP) - Ajax is getting tired of missing out on Europe's top competition, after stumbling again on the final hurdle to reach the Champions League.

"This is getting repetitive," said coach Henk ten Cate, after watching his team lose 2-1 Wednesday to Slavia Prague in the Czech capital, for a 3-1 aggregate defeat in their Champions League qualifier.

It lost at the same stage last year, at the hands of FC Copenhagen.

A four-time champion of Europe, Ajax has not won the Champions League since its young and talent-packed team featuring Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf beat AC Milan 1-0 in 1995.

The club has a history of dominating the Dutch league, but has not won the domestic title since 2004. Fans and media are now getting impatient for European successes, and speculating that Ten Cate's contract is unlikely to be renewed when it expires at the end of the season.

"Coach Ten Cate ... failed in what is almost certainly his last year at Ajax," Dutch daily De Volkskrant's soccer writer Willem Vissers wrote in the paper's Thursday edition.

"Ajax's play was generally sloppy and bad," he added. "Basic skills were missing and that is strange."

Ajax has scored 12 goals in just two Dutch league matches this season, but wasn't able to bring that form into its matchup with Slavia.

As they did in the first leg in Amsterdam two weeks ago, Ajax created good chances but failed to convert them.

"We again had enough scoring opportunities, but you have to take them otherwise you can't survive at this level," Ten Cate said.

The club lost two key players over the summer, with midfielder Wesley Sneijder moving to Real Madrid and forward Ryan Babel transferring to Liverpool.

Striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who assisted Luis Suarez on Ajax's only goal, credited Slavia goalkeeper Martin Vaniak - who also saved a Huntelaar penalty in the first leg - with helping Prague progress.

"Their keeper made two great saves - one from Jaap (Stam) and one from me," he said.

Now the Amsterdam team has to concentrate on the UEFA Cup and winning the Dutch league - which would give it direct entry to the Champion's League without playing in the qualification round.

"We have to keep going," said goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. "On Sunday we play against Groningen."

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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