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Ajax return to winning ways

Published: Sunday 25 September 2005, 0.10CET
Group B: AFC Ajax recovered from recent disappointment with an easy win but preparations were far from perfect for FC Thun and AC Sparta Praha, who both lost. features

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Published: Sunday 25 September 2005, 0.10CET

Ajax return to winning ways

Group B: AFC Ajax recovered from recent disappointment with an easy win but preparations were far from perfect for FC Thun and AC Sparta Praha, who both lost.
There were mixed results for the four sides involved in UEFA Champions League Group B as AFC Ajax returned to winning ways while Tuesday's opponents Arsenal FC lost further ground in the Premiership after a goalless draw. Things are far from rosy at FC Thun and AC Sparta Praha either after both were defeated as rounds up Saturday's action.

AFC Ajax 4-1 Roda JC

A makeshift Ajax side earned a morale-boosting victory at home to Roda to get back on track following Tuesday's demoralising 2-2 draw with ADO Den Haag - who scored twice in added time. Danny Blind's team have been plagued by injury in recent weeks, but it was an unforced team selection that reaped reward in Amsterdam, Angelos Charisteas vindicating his coach's decision to draft him into the team in place of Markus Rosenberg with two first-half strikes.

Steven Pienaar and Tomáš Galásek were both on target in the second period, the latter from the penalty spot. Such are Ajax's injury problems that when Wesley Sneijder (hamstring), Mauro Rosales (groin) and Nigel de Jong (buttock) were taken off with slight knocks, Spanish defender Juanfran and youth player Emmanuel Boakye both made their first-team debuts. John Heitinga and Olaf Lindenbergh are both serving suspensions.

The injured trio join an imposing injury list containing Zdenek Grygera (groin), Maarten Stekelenburg (shoulder), and Maxwell, Nicolae Mitea, Hatem Trabelsi and Kenneth Vermeer (all knee). And Blind thinks Tuesday's fixture with Arsenal will come too soon for Trabelsi, saying: "I think the Arsenal match will be too early for Trabelsi. In the next few days it will become clear if the other players will make it. I obviously hope they do so, but I have my doubts."

West Ham United FC 0-0 Arsenal FC

Arsenal lost more ground to English Premiership champions and leaders Chelsea FC as they were held to a goalless draw at London rivals West Ham, a result that saw Arsène Wenger's side slip eleven points behind Chelsea. Without a number of key players through injury, the visitors struggled to break down a well-organised West Ham defence and were reduced to shots from outside the penalty area, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and José Antonio Reyes all trying their luck from distance, but it was the home side who came closest to taking three points, Bobby Zamora heading wide when unmarked late on.

Wenger was still without the services of Thierry Henry, with a groin injury expected to sideline the French international striker until late October. Fellow forward Dennis Bergkamp missed out with a back complaint, as did Swiss defender Philippe Senderos, while Robert Pirès sat out the game because of a thigh problem. Fredrik Ljungberg, however, did recover from a similar injury to play all 90 minutes, while Matthieu Flamini came on in the 71st minute in place of Brazilian international midfield player Gilberto, who signed a new contract running until 2009 in midweek but left Upton Park on crutches with an ankle injury.

"Is the title over or not? I don't believe so," Wenger said. "We are frustrated because we did not win the game, but there were goods and bads in the game. We feel we were quite solid defensively and created chances, but we could not take them. We miss something up front. Is it in our final ball, the way we take our chances? It looks just like there is something lacking there, but I don't believe it is down to a lack of individual quality, because everyone wants to do so well."

FC Aarau 2-1 FC Thun

Thun made it three defeats in five games as the hope of a return to form engendered by Wednesday's comprehensive 4-0 victory against FC Schaffhausen quickly disappeared at lowly Aarau, in a match that also saw Tiago Bernadi hospitalised after banging his head in a collision with an opponent

Urs Schönenberger's side dominated from the kick-off against Schaffhausen, goals from Leandro Ferreira and Eren Sen leaving them with a 2-0 advantage after just ten minutes, before Ferreira and Bernardi added further strikes after the interval. But the ease with which they earned that victory never looked like being repeated against an Aarau team keen to build on their midweek draw with FC Zürich.

And it was the home side that broke the deadlock on the hour through Rainer Bieli. Swiss striker Mauro Lustrinelli equalised 12 minutes later, but parity lasted just ten minutes as Cameroonian midfield player Jean-Pierre Tchetschoua restored the advantage and there was no way back a second time for Thun.

Schönenberger, who is still concerned about the fitness of captain Andreas Gerber, said: "We need to play better against Sparta in order to have a chance. But I'm positive, my players have always been able to rise to the occasion."

AC Sparta Praha 0-2 FC Baník Ostrava

Sparta's poor domestic run continued as a 2-0 defeat by another side scrabbling for form, Baník, made it four points from their last five Czech top-flight games. Goalkeeper Jaromír Blažek took the captain's armband after Karel Poborský joined second division SK Dynamo Ceské Budéjovice on loan following a disagreement with AC Sparta Praha coach Jaroslav Hrebík, and he was soon the centre of attention as Baník started strongly.

By the half-hour mark Blažek had conceded twice in a fractious first-half performance that resulted in coach Jaroslav Hřebík making three substitutions at half-time. The changes revitalised the home side, but they could not reduce the deficit, and they were fortunate not to go further behind when Zdeněk Staněk hit the crossbar.

"We played pretty well, but we were unable to score a goal," said the coach Jaroslav Hřebík. "It seems finding the net is still our main problem." The Sparta coach will also have to make do without Miroslav Slepička, who was dismissed alongside Baník's Petr Čoupek in the dying moments and now faces a domestic suspension. On Sunday, the Sparta players voted midfield player Tomáš Sivok as the new captain.

Last updated: 26/09/05 9.20CET

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