Ajax Amsterdam’s poor season has gone from bad to worse after they suffered one of the biggest shocks in their history with a 3-2 loss to fourth-tier amateur side USV Hercules in the last 32 of the Dutch Cup, with Australian coach Michael Valkanis left crestfallen in the dugout.
Valkanis is in temporary charge after the Dutch giant’s regular manager, ex-Melbourne City boss John van ‘t Schip, did not witness his side’s capitulation as he is in Australia to attend his son’s wedding.
Trailing 2-0 in Utrecht after 82 minutes, Ajax looked to have saved themselves when Brian Brobbey and Chuba Akpom netted late goals to level the score.
But Hercules netted the winner through Mats Grotenberg in the third minute of injury-time after their own coach Rene van der Kooij had given his team a two per cent chance of victory before the game.
It is the first time Ajax have lost to an amateur club in the Dutch Cup. In the 29 previous meetings, they have scored at least four goals.
Ajax spent the early part of this season in the relegation zone but have since risen to fifth in the Eredivisie table, albeit they are a massive 23 points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven.
The Melbourne-born Valkanis had a long playing career both in Australia and Europe, mostly in Greece, and has been an assistant at several clubs in the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as leading Melbourne City in 2017.
He was most recently head coach at Hapoel Tel Aviv, but left the club to link up with van ‘t Schip following the outbreak of conflict in Israel.
“It is an honour to have this role for a while,” Valkanis said on taking temporary control at Ajax.
“We will continue to do the work we have put in since day one.”
“I am very passionate and love teams that play attacking football. I am very competitive in my own right and I want the teams I am involved to have that too and take to the field to win.
“Football means everything to me. I played it from an early age and then immediately got into coaching.”