Ajax secures European football in Austria

Ajax secures European football in Austria

Ajax has won the away match against Sturm Graz 1-3. Klaas Jan Huntelaar (2) and Dusan Tadic took care of the Amsterdam goals. This convincing victory assures Ajax of playing European football. In order to reach the Champions League Erik ten Hag’s team have two more hurdles to take.

Ajax had a good starting position for the next round in the Champions League qualification after the 2-0-victory in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. ‘But we’re not there yet’, Ten Hag said at the press conference one day before the match.

Starting 11 debut Tadic
The manager gave Tadic his first spot on the white-red-white’s starting eleven. The Serb, who made a good impression last week by making a great substitution, took Donny van de Beek’s place.

Tadic was also responsible for the first major opportunity in the Merkur Arena. The Serb received a beautiful through pass from David Neres, but failed to turn this opportunity into the opening goal. A defender came sliding in on the toe chip, causing a corner ball. Huntelaar however, did find the back of the Austrian net. The striker received a cross by Neres on the chest and then shot the ball into the far corner in one!

First goal by Tadic in the Ajax strip!
On the cusp of halftime the Amsterdammers could have extended their lead through Neres, but Ajax hit the locker rooms with a reassuring 1-0 advantage. In the second half things just got better: Tadic celebrated his debut on the first eleven with a goal. After an incisive crossing pass by Noussair Mazraoui the attacker doubled the score.

After 55 minutes of play Daley Blind was brought on as left fullback. The defender-cum-midfielder replaced Nico Tagliafico, who had already been booked. Later Van de Beek and Max Wöber also subbed. 

Huntelaar scores his second goal
In the final fifteen minutes the Austrians had clearly lost all hope. The Ajacieds had multiple chances to make the whole experience even more painful for Sturm Graz. In the 77th minute Huntelaar did exactly that: he received a well-directed pass from Wöber and won the one-on-one with goalkeeper Siebenhandl. With only minutes left to play Ajax experienced an awkward moment; André Onana responded badly to a back pass by Matthijs de Ligt and the ball rolled into the goal: 1-3.

Next stop  Liege
With victory in the pocket Ajax can now begin preparing for the 3rd preliminary round of the UEFA Champions League, where they will take on Stadard Liege on Tuesday 7 August. The first match will take place in Belgium; one week later Standard will visit the Johan Cruijff ArenA. If Ajax defeat the Belgians, they will go through to the Play-Offs in the hope of reaching the main tournament of the Champions League. 

Text: Ajax.nl/Dries Govers
Photo: Ajax.nl/Louis van de Vuurst