Norwich City 1-1 Ajax: Schone cancels out Pilkington opener as Canaries hold onto draw in friendly clash
Chris Hughton's men held out as the Eredivisie side dominated the match from start to finish, with Lorenzo Ebecilio and Thulani Serero impressing in particular
By Ryan Benson
The Canaries took the lead after seven minutes as Anthony Pilkington struck a free-kick beyond Jasper Cillessen in the Ajax goal a shortly after Christian Eriksen hit the bar for the visitors.
The four-time European champions equalised with 15 minutes left of the first-half through a marvellous 30-yard effort from Lasse Schone and were in complete and utter control from then on, but just could not break down the packed City defence.
Christ Hughton named an almost-first-choice starting line-up with Grant Holt deployed up front alongside James Vaughan, while the likes of Pilkington, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and John Ruddy also appeared from the start.
Ajax on the other hand had more of a blend between first-team stars and younger prospects as established players such as Gregory van der Wiel and Eriksen started, as did young defenders Joel Veltman, Stefano Denswil and Dico Koppers.
The Norwich fans started in good voice but were silenced with just over a minute gone as Thulani Serero skipped past Marc Tierney with ease before delivering an excellent low cross that Eriksen flicked goalwards, but it came back off the crossbar.
After a few minutes of quiet at Carrow Road, the Norwich fans roared back into life and it seemed to have a telling effect as the hosts took the lead in the seventh minute.
Vaughan was played through on goal before being pulled down by the last man Joel Veltman, and up stepped Pilkington who swung the ball into the top far corner, leaving Cillessen with no chance.
Chances were few and far between for both sides in the ensuing 15 minutes, but Ajax were dominant nonetheless, playing some outrageously good football, trying to get everyone involved with one-touch passes, while Thulani Serero and Jody Lukoki had Tierney running in circles.
The next half-chance came around the 25 minute mark as Eriksen’s corner was met by the head of Stefano Denswil, but the youngster’s effort went clean over.
However, Ajax did eventually have their richly-deserved equaliser after 30 minutes. After struggling to break the hosts down due to their deep defending, the impressive Lasse Schone elected to shoot on sight and his strike flew straight into the top corner from 30 yards.
The second-half started as the first ended, with Ajax in complete control, stroking the ball around brilliantly and keeping Norwich firmly on the back foot, but for all the Dutch side’s fancy flicks, they could not get a shot in.
Fifteen minutes into the second period and Ajax still had not hit the target, with Norwich seemingly preparing themselves for matches against the bigger sides next season with their all-out-defence mentality.
The Eredivisie outfit almost found a way through as the lively Lorenzo Ebecilio hit a diagonal ball from the left wing into the far side of the penalty area for Serero and the diminutive winger beat John Ruddy to it, flicking it past him, but back came Elliott Ward to smash clear.
Ajax’s domination continued but they were fruitless in front of goal, with the lack of a recognised front man arguably letting them down as they failed to find the telling final ball.
The home fans were getting increasingly annoyed by their team’s performance, with the loudest groans coming as the defence cleared their lines, but the only player chasing down the Ajax defence was Holt, effectively gifting the Dutch side a chance to instantly attack once again.
Ajax almost got a shot away with 10 minutes to go as Ebecilio played in a good cross from the left and Davy Klaassen attempted an over-head kick, but he just failed to connect with it as Ward put it behind for a corner.
The second-half finally had its first proper attempts in the dying moments as Klaassen headed Ebecilio's cross wide, then Siem de Jong's tame shot was blocked six-yards out and the two sides settled for a draw in a match that Ajax could not have dominated more if they had tried.
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