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Grim news cheers Ajax

Published: Monday 21 October 2002, 18.11CET
Fred Grim has eased AFC Ajax's keeping crisis ahead of the Group D visit of Rosenborg BK.

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Published: Monday 21 October 2002, 18.11CET

Grim news cheers Ajax

Fred Grim has eased AFC Ajax's keeping crisis ahead of the Group D visit of Rosenborg BK.

By Theo Ruizenaar

An emergency call to former favourite Fred Grim has eased Ronald Koeman's goalkeeping headache ahead of AFC Ajax's UEFA Champions League Group D match against Rosenborg BK.

Grim news
With the Amsterdam club's current No1, Maarten Stekelenburg, joining fellow custodians Bogdan Lobont and Joey Didulica on the injured list after Ajax's 6-2 weekend defeat of AZ Alkmaar, Koeman was forced to tempt the 37-year-old Grim out of retirement to deputise for Henk Timmer.

'Prepared to help'
"I called Grim and he was prepared to help me out just for this match," said Koeman. "We asked him in the summer if he would play in an emergency and he refused. The significance of the situation made him join up with the squad."

Crisis eased
Koeman also has concerns at the opposite end of the pitch - Ajax have failed to score in each of their last two European outings, a 1-0 loss at Internazionale FC and 0-0 stalemate in Norway. However, he is boosted by the return of three key players. "[Cristian] Chivu, [Jelle] Van Damme and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic are all fit enough to play," Koeman said.

Open section
The section is the most open of the eight with each of the four challengers having lost at least once. Olympique Lyonnais lead with six points from three matches, two clear of Ajax and Inter. Rosenborg, propping up the table with two points, remain in contention and will leapfrog Ajax with a win.

'Tough team'
The likelihood of that happening has not crossed Koeman's mind. "Rosenborg are a tough team with an organised defence but the match they played in Lyon [a 5-0 defeat] taught us that there will always be possibilities to score against their defence." Koeman will entrust Mido and Jari Litmanen, both on the scoresheet twice on Saturday, to outwit the visiting back line.

Title success
Rosenborg won an eleventh successive Norwegian championship at the weekend, yet their domestic dominance cannot mask their frailties outside Trondheim: they have won just four of their 26 Champions League games played away from home, the last at BV Borussia Dortmund three years ago.

'Difficult games'
"You have to consider that since 1999 a lot of our best players have left," coach Nils Arne Eggen said. "We are facing two difficult away games and will have to wait to see what opportunities arise but we have to play at our maximum to beat the likes of Ajax and Inter."

Strand to play
Roar Strand played for 30 minutes on Saturday and Eggen said the Norwegian international will start "for sure". However, doubts persist over the inclusion of Harald Brattbakk and Frode Johnsen. "It is dangerous to start with all the players who have just returned from injury because you always have the risk that they will get injured early in the match," Eggen concluded.

Last updated: 23/10/02 9.32CET