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Lausanne looking to create historic upset

Mazzoni (left) is congratulated after scoring the only goal in the first leg

(Keystone)

The footballers of Lausanne stand on the brink of one of the biggest upsets in this season's UEFA Cup. They take a one-nil lead into the second leg of Thursday's second round tie against the giants of Ajax Amsterdam.

That win at the Pontaise, thanks to a goal from their Argentinian striker Javier Mazzoni, will go down as one of the club's finest ever exploits. But they realise that the job is still only half done, and the most daunting part is still to come.

During their last training session before the big game, the Lausanne squad did not seem overawed by their spectacular surroundings.

"There's a really good mood in the squad. The players are very calm, and that's important going into such an important match," the Lausanne coach, Pierre-André Schurmann, told reporters after his players had had their first taste of the - albeit empty - 52,000-seat Amsterdam Arena.

The stadium's retractable roof was left on because of the poor weather in Amsterdam, and it will remain in place for the match should the rain persist - perhaps one of the first times the Lausanne team will have played such an important fixture indoors.

Schurmann said there were no injury problems in his squad, but that he would delay naming the team until nearer the match: "I'll select the team after a good night's sleep."

Ajax, on the other hand, have a number of players out injured. The side may not be packed with famous names like the Ajax teams of old, but they can still call on stars such as the most-capped Dutchman, Aron Winter, and the exciting Romanian, Cristian Chivu.

Ajax also boast a number of other internationals as well as several products of the famous Ajax youth academy, who are already being tipped as future Dutch internationals.

"We've got a lot of respect for our opponents. Ajax are not a little team. Even though we won the first leg, we're still the underdogs," Schurmann said.

"As it stands, we have a 1-0 lead, and we're going to try to keep it. It's up to Ajax to show that they really want to qualify. But they are the favourites and we are not going to underestimate them," he added.

That would be just as well. The two clubs have met before in Europe, in 1978. On that occasion, Lausanne also won the home leg 1-0, before being thrashed 4-0 in the return match.

Ajax is a name that sends the football purists misty-eyed. They have won the European Cup six times, often by playing breathtakingly attractive football.

It is something that Lausanne can only dream of aspiring to. But by Thursday evening, it may be the Swiss minnows, and not the Dutch aristocrats, who are in the draw for the third round.

by Roy Probert


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