By Marcus Christenson in Amsterdam
AFC Ajax striker Wesley Sonck struck twice to give the Dutch side their first points in UEFA Champions League Group H with a 2-0 win against Club Brugge KV at the Amsterdam ArenA.
The Belgian forward, who joined Ajax from Belgian First Division side KRC Genk in the summer, converted two one-on-ones with Brugge goalkeeper Tomislav Butina to leave the Belgian side bottom of the section with only one point from two games.
Ajax were without defenders John O'Brien and Zdenek Grygera and coach Ronald Koeman responded by moving Maxwell to left-back and pairing Petri Pasanen and Julien Escudé in central defence. Jari Litmanen again missed out through injury, so Zlatan Ibrahimovic was supported by Sonck and Tom Soetaers.
Brugge coach Trond Sollied, meanwhile, was without suspended strikers Andrés Mendoza and Sandy Martens, so played Bengt Saeternes on his own up front with Gaëtan Englebert and Gert Verheyen in support. In defence, David Rozehnal lined up alongside Phillipe Clement, wearing a face mask to protect an earlier injury.
Ajax started the brighter and called Butina into action after a mere four minutes, Sonck forcing an agile save from the Brugge goalkeeper. A minute later, Ibrahimovic forced Butina to tip his dangerous shot over the bar. The home side were finally awarded for their early endeavours in the eleventh minute when Tomáš Galásek, aided by a back-heel from Ibrahimovic, released Sonck behind the Brugge back line and the Belgian striker slid the ball beyond Butina.
Brugge nearly equalised four minutes later when an under-hit pass from Pasanen let in Saeternes. The striker accelerated clear and rounded the advancing Bogdan Lobont, but his shot was cleared off the line by the covering Escudé.
Clement goes close
Ajax struggled to regain the initiative and Lobont was forced into action several times and, when the Ajax goalkeeper was left rooted to the spot, Clement's header from a Hans Cornelis free-kick flew just over. At the other end, Ibrahimovic failed to find the target from a promising position while Butina blocked a fierce Hatem Trabelsi drive.
Gvozdenovic goes close
Ronald Koeman replaced Soetaers with Wesley Sneider at half-time but it was Brugge who set the tone at the start of the second half and Ivan Gvozdenovic forced Lobont into a double save from close range in the 48th minute. But, as Brugge pressed forward, Ajax exploited the extra space to score a second on the break, Sneijder providing the pinpoint through-ball and Sonck the finish to put Ajax two up in the 54th minute.
Nigel De Jong, on for Steven Pienaar, then almost made it three after more good work from Ibrahimovic, but his shot was just too high. Sollied tried to change the pattern of the game by introducing Nastja Ceh and Josip Simic in the second half but to no avail. In fact, it was the home side who continued to create the more dangerous chances. Sonck could have completed his hat-trick but for a flying block from Butina, while Maxwell's shot was blocked as he tried to round off a mesmerising Ajax move.