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That last percent. A little bit of luck, a little quality in rounding off at decisive moments. That's what Ajax lacked in the group phase of the Champions League, according to trainer Erik ten Hag.
"Everything has to go well if you want to hibernate, and clearly it didn't", says Ten Hag. "That started with Mohammed Kudus being injured and missing big chances against Liverpool and continued after that."
Ten Hag; "We've created the best chances of 1-0 in the matches against Liverpool and Atalanta. Today was the same story. That first chance of course comes too late in the match, but we don't give anything away and create the first big opportunity of the match. And we've got to get it in, but we're missing that last percent."
The chance Ten Hag was talking about was a moment in the 75th minute, when Davy Klaassen was allowed to shoot free but the ball aimed straight at out goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini. A capital miss, as it turned out later. Both sporting and financial: a victory over Atalanta had not only earned Ajax a place in the eighth finals, but also at least 12 million euros.
That Atalanta compact defended and lurked on the counter came as a surprise in the Ajax camp. "I expected them to play more offensive," Ten Hag admitted. "Our strikers were too isolated."
And Klaassen: "The plan was: don't lose your head and start playing kamikaze and create opportunities from there. We did too little of that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. just sucks. Then there's that red card for Ryan Gravenberch, and it gets even harder."
What Ajax has left is a sequel in the Europa League, with some nice possible opponents like AS Roma, Manchester United and Arsenal, but otherwise the pathetic little brother of the Champions League.
When asked if Ajax had a chance to win in the second European club tournament, Onana had no choice but to answer positively. "Of course it's possible, with the players and the quality we have."
"But it's going to be very difficult, there are some very good teams involved. We'll see."