Football: Ajax axe coach Keizer and assistants Bergkamp, Spijkerman after early cup exit

 Ajax coach Marcel Keizer gesturing during the Europa League play-off against Rosenborg on Aug 17, 2017.
Ajax coach Marcel Keizer gesturing during the Europa League play-off against Rosenborg on Aug 17, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

AMSTERDAM (REUTERS) - Ajax Amsterdam sacked coach Marcel Keizer and his assistants Dennis Bergkamp and Hennie Spijkerman on Thursday (Dec 21), a day after the club were bundled out of the Dutch Cup.

"The club management does not have the requisite confidence that our ambitions will be realised under them," Ajax said in a statement, adding that poor results were behind the decision to dispense with Keizer and veteran assistant Spijkerman.

There had also been a difference of opinion with Bergkamp, a club icon from his playing days, over the technical direction of the club, the statement added.

Four times European champions Ajax lost on penalties to fellow Eredivisie side Twente Enschede on Wednesday after conceding a stoppage-time equaliser in their last-16 cup tie.

They sit second in the Dutch championship, five points behind PSV Eindhoven, who they beat 3-0 on Dec 10.

In European competition this season, Ajax lost in the Champions League preliminary round to Nice before dropping into the Europa League play-off round where they were beaten by Rosenborg of Norway.

They lost to Manchester United in the Europa League final last season.

"We had a horrible summer and poor start to the season," added general director Edwin van der Sar on the club's website (ajax.nl).

"The elimination from European competition was the lowest point and with Marc Overmars (the club's technical director) we have had many discussions in recent months over the ongoing ability of our first team.

"We do not have the confidence that we will reach the levels we seek in the manner in which we have been proceeding."

Keizer, 48, was promoted from the Ajax reserve side, who compete in the Dutch second division, to take over from Peter Bosz, when he left to join Borussia Dortmund in the close season.

Keizer's tenure got off to a traumatic start when midfielder Abdelhak Nouri collapsed in a pre-season friendly, suffering a cardiac arrest that left him with permanent brain damage.

The club's youthful team have since battled to come to terms with the July incident.