AFC Ajax were in reflective mood after seeing their UEFA Champions League hopes ended by FC Internazionale Milano in the second leg of their last-16 tie at the Giuseppe Meazza - yet they are already plotting their route into next season's competition.
'Loss of concentration'
Dejan Stanković scored the only goal just before the hour last night, capitalising on a defensive lapse to rifle past Maarten Stekelenburg and earn Inter a 3-2 aggregate win. "Just one loss of concentration and we lose the game," midfielder Steven Pienaar said. "We thought we only had to wait to get our chance but unfortunately we simply didn't create enough." The Nerazzurri certainly did as Adriano squandered a first-half penalty, while Obafemi Martins rattled the crossbar.
Ajax had little in response and Pienaar believes the side with an average age of under 25 lacked composure. "Whenever we got into the final third we panicked and looked for long passes," he said. "We know Inter have tall players at the back." The influential South African international, who turns 24 on Friday, is set to depart the Amsterdam ArenA this summer as the four-time European champions contemplate losing another talented crop of players.
On Thursday evening, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard will appear in Demetrio Albertini's testimonial on the same San Siro pitch in a match billed the 'Notte di Stelle' (night of stars). Both honed their skills at Ajax before moving on, and although little has changed in that respect, the BV Borussia Dortmund-bound Pienaar is confident a new generation is poised to come through. "I'm leaving with six or seven others at the end of the season," he said. "But we have a lot of good young players and the team has a good future."
Markus Rosenberg echoes those sentiments, although with 12 goals this term, the Sweden striker may also exit sooner rather than later. For now he is focused on the remainder of the campaign. "We have to keep doing what we're doing," he said. "We have the Dutch Cup semi-finals and then there's the play-offs [when the teams lying second to fifth in the Eredivisie contest the Netherlands' second berth in the UEFA Champions League]. Hopefully we'll win that and play in this competition next year."
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