AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Ajax Amsterdam blamed the sale of key players in the close season for their record European loss after being thumped 6-1 at home by Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Coach Alfred Schreuder and captain Dusan Tadic said Ajax were struggling after losing the likes of Antony, Lisandro Martinez, Ryan Gravenberch and Sebastien Haller in the summer and that they lacked cohesion and confidence.
“We have seven or eight new players. When you lose that many players, it gets a bit difficult," said Tadic, who was sent off and misses next week’s return clash in Naples.
"Then you need more matches to get a rhythm into the team."
Ajax, with three points from their opening three games, are in danger of missing out on next year’s knockout stages and Schreuder said it was clear the personnel changes were having an impact on the side.
“In recent weeks we have not made any progress in our game,” he added.
“We are too restless in phases. That certainly worries me, but all we can do is indicate how things can be improved.”
Tuesday’s defeat was not only the Dutch club’s heaviest defeat in European competition but also a third loss in four matches in all competition.
“I certainly didn't expect this. I knew that Napoli could play good football and had great courage and that we therefore had to show courage and guts too. We didn't. Certainly not on the ball,” added Schreuder.
“This is a blow to all of us. That is clear. Napoli is a fantastic team full of confidence. We don't have that at the moment.
“We conceded the goals too cheaply, and that is unworthy of Ajax."
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)