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  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 08:59 GMT
Ajax hold Arsenal
Sylvain Wiltord celebrates after giving Arsenal the lead against Ajax
Slyvain Wiltord scored his second goal in two games
Arsenal 1-1 Ajax

Arsenal's Champions League aspirations were given a jolt by Ajax at Highbury.

The Gunners, recently so dominant at home, found their return to European football after the winter break a real challenge as Ajax returned to Holland with a deserved draw.

Sylvain Wiltord gave Arsenal an early lead, but Arsene Wenger's side were pegged back by a young Ajax side deprived of several key players through injury.

But inspired by the South African Steven Pienaar, Ronald Koeman's side edged their way back into the game and at times gave Arsenal something of a football lesson.

A deftly taken Nigel de Jong goal levelled the scores and although Dennis Bergkamp hit the post late in the game, an Arsenal victory would have been cruel on Ajax.

With Valencia beating Roma, the Spanish champions, Arsenal and Ajax each have five points with the Serie A side propping up the table with just a single point.

It was Bergkamp, playing against the team he began his career with, whose passing and vision set up Wiltord for the Frenchman's second goal in successive games.

After Zlatan Ibrahimovic lost possession, Patrick Vieira fed Bergkamp, who immediately exploited the space left by Jelle Van Damme, who was caught out of position by Arsenal's swift counterattack.

Wiltord ran on to Bergkamp's pass, steadied himself, before firing past Bogdan Lobont.

On 17 minutes Ajax hauled themselves back into the game with a goal of devastating simplicity.

Tomas Galasek's diagonal pass picked out De Jong, who cut inside Ashley Cole, before curling his shot past David Seaman.

In the next minute Ibrahimovic wriggled his way into the Arsenal box but as he prepared to shoot the Swede was denied by Sol Campbell's tackle.

Enjoying and retaining plenty of possession - with Pienaar pulling the strings in midfield - Ajax continued to give Arsenal plenty to think about.

Nigel de Jong celebrates his goal against Arsenal
De Jong was one of only two Dutch players in Ajax's team

Notably when Seaman, had to get down quickly to save Maxwell's deflected shot.

Suffering from a hip injury, Seaman did not emerge after the restart, with Stuart Taylor replacing the England international.

Taylor had little to do, but he needed to be alert to reach the ball before Nouredine Boukhari nipped in.

While Ajax passed and moved, Arsenal were largely estricted to a series of long shots, two each from Robert Pires and Henry.

The second effort from Pires saw the Frenchman horribly miscue when he had a clear sight of goal, though Henry's second shot was well saved by Lobont.

Soon after the restart the Ajax goalkeeper had to rush out to clear the ball from Bergkamp and then quickly get back to his line to save a Gilberto shot.


Arsenal: Seaman, Lauren, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp, Henry.
Subs: Taylor, Jeffers, Parlour, van Bronckhorst, Edu, Kanu, Stepanovs.

Ajax: Lobont, Trabelsi, Chivu, Pasanen, Van Damme, Pienaar, Galasek, De Jong, Maxwell, Van der Meyde, Ibrahimovic.
Subs: Didulica, Bergdolmo, Witschge, Sneijder, Yakubu, Boukhari, Seedorf.

Referee: C Cortez Batista (Portugal).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Jonathan Pearce
"Arsenal didn't make their early domination count"
Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp
"Hopefully we can keep our away form going in Amsterdam"

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