It was one of the strangest incidents so far this football season and the head coach of the Arsenal Women's team said he had "never experienced anything like it", after it emerged before kick-off last night that Ajax's goals were too small.
The first signs that something was out of the ordinary came when a member of Arsenal's non-playing staff – who cannot normally reach the crossbar with ease – noticed to their bemusement that they could do so.
Out came the tape measures, the frame of the goal was found to be 10cm lower than required, a baffled Arsenal staff member informed Uefa, and the posts were adjusted before play began in the Champions League qualifier. The incident caused much embarrassment for Ajax, who were bidding to reach the group stages of the competition for the first time.
"It has been a weird experience coming here and playing a big club like Ajax and we have to measure the goals and it turned out they were 10cm too small," Eidevall said after the match. "I have never experienced anything like it, but we can only control what we can control."
There was no suggestion of foul play and sources have said that staff at the Sportcomplex De Toekomst were "mortified" when they realised something was wrong.
Ajax told Telegraph Sport: "There is daily maintenance on the pitches and, prior to this game, something went wrong when putting the goals back on the Main Field. After being identified by Arsenal and Uefa, this was rectified before kick-off.
"We obviously regret this and will adjust the procedure to avoid this kind of incident in the future."
Despite the size of the goals being corrected, neither team hit the target in the first half. Thankfully for the Women's Super League side their Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema broke the deadlock with a low finish on 51 minutes. That proved to be the second leg's only goal but it was enough to send Arsenal through, after a 2-2 draw in the first leg.
The shrunken goals were not the only off-field talking point from Wednesday night's game, with Arsenal also baffled when they were barred from bringing on a concussion substitute to replace Beth Mead, who suffered a head injury late in the match.
Concussion substitutions are permitted in England's men's Premier League and in the WSL but are not part of the rules in Uefa club competitions.
Arsenal had not used all five of their permitted substitutes but they had made changes at three separate times in the game, meaning they could not bring on any more substitutes. Mead was withdrawn anyway with Arsenal not wanting to take any medical risks, and they saw out stoppage time with 10 players on the pitch.
Mead was taken to hospital locally on Wednesday night as a precaution for checks but is understood to be doing well.
Don’t worry, Meado’s all okay! 🙏
Thanks for your concern and love, Gooners ❤️ pic.twitter.com/hhHIPsMv79
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 29, 2022
The incident highlighted the contrast between the English domestic league's stance on concussion substitutes and that of the European competitions, about which Uefa have both been contacted for comment.
Arsenal's Swedish coach Eidevall added: "I think Uefa removed the concussion sub, they still have the concussion protocol but the doctor makes the decision. There is no doubt that Beth Mead needs to be taken off.
"The problem that I have is that I asked the fourth official if we can do a concussion sub and she [initially] said ‘yes.’ Then when we are about to do it she says ‘no.’ That misinformation, I don’t understand. It’s such a simple question to answer 'yes' or 'no'. But the players were brilliant and defended well with ten."