Ajax defeated Celta de Vigo in its UEFA Europa League pool match on Thursday evening, 3-2. By doing this, the Amsterdam team assured itself of a spot in the EL tournament in 2017. Kasper Dolberg, Hakim Ziyech and Amin Younes brought Ajax to a 3-0 lead. The Spaniards came back somewhat in the final minutes.
In the ArenA, Peter Bosz had Daley Sinkgraven and Nemanja Gudelj at his disposal once again. The duo had to miss last weekend’s Excelsior game. Sinkgraven had now sufficiently recovered from his foot injury, and started in his trusted left back position. Gudelj was sick on Saturday, but had a spot on the bench for the match against the Spanish team. Jairo Riedewald replaced the slightly injured Nick Viergever in Ajax’s defense.
It didn’t take Ajax long to take the lead against Celta de Vigo during the compelling first half of the game. There was practically one-way traffic towards Ruben Blanco’s goal; the keeper saw Ajax attacks come at him at rapid-fire pace. In the first half alone, Blanco was put to work by Hakim Ziyech’s razor-sharp free kick (boxed away), and a venomous shot by Dolberg (deflected wide). Ajax set the pace and dominated in a well-filled ArenA.
Blanco had an easier time with a long-distance shot from Lasse Schöne and an attempt by Davy Klaassen, which disappeared wide of the goal. But it was Ziyech who remained a thorn in the Spanish team’s side. The technically gifted and ultra-creative midfielder sent a shot wide of the Spanish goal in the 37th minute. A backwards header by Dolberg also failed to bear fruit for the dominant home team.
Well deserved lead
In the 41st minute, Dolberg brought his team into a well-deserved lead. The young Danish striker rewarded both his team and himself with his goal. Dolberg, along with Sinkgraven and Ziyech, was one of the most outstanding Ajacieds in the game. In fact, Ajax had no weak links on this night. After a misfired throw in by Celta, Traoré easily picked up the ball. A few passes later and Dolberg had cleverly outplayed his guard, Sergi Gómez and sent the ball past Blanco: 1-0.
Celta de Vigo had kept Ajax to a 2-2 result two weeks ago in Spain. Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo’s formation had about one and a half opportunities in the first forty-five minutes. A shot by Théo Bongonda sailed over Andre Onana’s goal. The greatest opportunity for the Spaniards was initiated by the Ajax keeper himself. Onana shot the ball straight into Bongonda’s feet, and the Celta forward saw his shot roll wide of the goal. Ajax thus escaped a goal against at that point.
The Amsterdam team kept hunting for extra goals. Ajax took care of it early in the second half. Veltman was poised to double the score, but the right back’s shot went just over the goal. Schöne’s free kick sailed over the crossbar. On a pass from Traoré, Ziyech was able to strike at close range in the 67th minute: 2-0. Traoré’s prep work surpassed Ziyech’s goal in its beauty. The right winger tricked his direct opponent with a series of fake-outs, after which Ziyech received the ball on a silver platter.
Younes scored his goal four minutes later. The left winger charged up on the left side, cut across to the inside and rounded off with a shot from his right foot: 3-0. The Europa League match was done and dusted, or so it seemed. But the game, unexpected and unnecessarily, took a nail-biting turn during the final minutes in the ArenA. Fortunately, this phase was short-lived. Ten minutes before the end of regular time, Celta substitute John Guidetti struck: 3-1. The former Feyenoord player was jeered extensively, but the Swede silenced his critics with his actions (as well as his words and gestures).
Six minutes later, Celta made the game even closer with Iago Aspass’ goal: 3-2. The substitute rounded off a short slalom successfully. Despite these two goals against, the Amsterdam team’s win wasn’t further endangered. After this game against Celta de Vigo, there are two games left in the group phase. Ajax is now assured of playing in the European tournament in 2017. A good achievement.