AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Ajax Amsterdam might have made an emphatic start to their Champions League group campaign by blitzing Lille 3-0 on Tuesday, but coach Erik ten Hag was far from pleased with some aspects of their play.
Ten Hag said Ajax’s performance could have been better had they stuck to pre-arranged instructions before the Group H game against last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up at the Amsterdam Arena.
“We could have been a lot better organised. Lille played very attacking and gave us a lot of space for counter attacks,” he told reporters afterwards.
“That’s when you need players to move up quickly towards their goal, but we did it too quickly at times. We discussed beforehand that we might need to put the brakes on a bit so as not to lose possession again and get caught out.
“That almost happened to us in the last minute of the first half and would have spoilt our half-time lead.”
Criticism was echoed by midfielder Hakim Ziyech, who told Dutch TV there was too much showing off at times from the youthful outfit, seeking to emulate their heroics of last season when they went from the early preliminary rounds right through to the semifinals.
“We did our thing, but sometimes we overdid it and at times there was too much circus,” he said, referring to cute passing moves and attempted backheels that did not work out for Ajax.
But Ten Hag described the overall result as “fantastic”.
“I saw a lot of good things in our attacking play. The second goal from Edson Alvarez, for example, was well set-up,” added the coach.
The Mexican scored early in the second half, his goal sandwiched between Quincy Promes’ 18th minute effort and the third from Nicolas Tagliafico.
Ajax’s next Champions League tie is at Valencia on Oct. 2. Valencia began their campaign with a 1-0 away win over Chelsea on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Catherine Evans)