Ajax's Gudelj gives Fenerbahçe their due

"There was very little room in the middle of the park," acknowledged Ajax midfielder Nemanja Gudelj, giving Fenerbahçe credit for stifling his side in Group A's battle of the giants.

Highlights: Ajax 0-0 Fenerbahçe
Highlights: Ajax 0-0 Fenerbahçe

If in general 0-0 draws are characterised as disappointing, they also tend to shift your focus onto aspects of the game other than just goals.

So it was on Thursday in Amsterdam, where a well-organised Fenerbahçe team played in a compact and disciplined manner that stifled the Ajax midfield, disrupted their build-up from the back and consequently cut off most of the supply to their front line.

Ajax coach Frank de Boer later talked about an "unbelievable amount of possession lost in the first half and only slightly less in the second", but this was not solely due to poor play on his players' part – it was also down to Fenerbahçe's tactics. The Istanbul side were amazingly adept at creating the illusion that space was available, and then flooding those areas with players when the ball was played in.

"There was very little room in the middle of the park," acknowledged Ajax midfielder Nemanja Gudelj. "You could see their intention was to tightly mark our two central midfielders and, as soon as the ball was played back to me, their left-half was on me almost immediately. In the first five minutes they managed to intercept the ball a couple of times doing this. After that I warned the guys and we dealt with it a little better."

Ajax were also hindered by losing both wingers to injury, but even when Anwar El Ghazi and Viktor Fischer were on the pitch they rarely had the freedom to threaten Volkan Demirel's goal.

The energetic Riechedly Bazoer was often the only outlet when Ajax gained possession. "In the first half we tried to get the ball to Riechedly so we could start something, but even then it rarely resulted in a cross or shot," said Serbian international Gudelj.

The draw leaves Ajax third in UEFA Europa League Group A, battling for second place with Fenerbahçe and Celtic, while bottom seeds Molde are already confirmed qualifiers. As centre-back Joël Veltman remarked somewhat ruefully: "All we can do is try to win our next two matches and hope that Fenerbahçe slip up."

Meanwhile Gudelj praised the cohesiveness of runaway pool leaders Molde. "The other three teams [in Group A] probably have better players, but the Norwegians have obviously performed more effectively as a team," he said. "It just shows what you can do when you all work together."