On Wednesday evening, Ajax earned a play-off spot in the UEFA Champions League. In Thessaloniki, the Ajacieds defeated PAOK by 2-1. Thanks to Davy Klaassen´s two goals, Ajax converted an early 1-0 deficit into a win. On Friday afternoon, Ajax will find out who their next opponent will be.
Golden boy Kasper Dolberg began this European duel in the squad once again. The Danish centre forward scored a very important goal eight days ago in the Amsterdam ArenA (1-1) against PAOK. On the left flank, Ajax coach Peter Bosz couldn´t use Amin Younes, who had not made the trip because of a groin injury.
Peter Bosz went with a surprising 5-3-2 formation in Greece. In this new configuration, Heiko Westermann made his official debut for Ajax 1. The German, together with Joël Veltman and Nick Viergever, formed the heart of the Ajax defense. On offense, Mateo Cassierra´s and Kasper Dolberg´s job was clear: to score at least one goal.
But PAOK coach Vladimir Ivic had also instructed his strikers to score, and it was centre forward Stefanos Athansiadis (football name: Klaus) who had paid attention to his coach. In the lively Toumba stadium, the forward sent a header from a curving corner kick past Jasper Cillessen. After that, it was Klaus once again who had two incredible opportunities to score, but Cillessen and the forward´s lack of orientation stood in the way of a second PAOK goal.
Sloppy plays added up on the Amsterdam team´s side and a second Greek goal seemed to be inevitable. But in Greece, there is an old saying that goes like this: ‘if one team doesn´t score, then the other one will.’ This came true when PAOK defender Marin Leovac fouled Nick Viergever, who was celebrating his birthday, resulting in a penalty. Under a steady stream of jeering, Davy Klaassen tied the game.
At the start of the second half, PAOK was the dominant team, but the Greek team didn´t pose any more danger than a well-placed free kick by Giorgos Tzavellaz or a header by Giannis Mystakidis. When the match seemed to be heading into overtime, Davy Klaassen once again scored a critical goal. The 23 year-old forward personally brought Ajax into the next round of the Champions League: 1-2.
Ajax will find out who its opponent in the Champions League play-off will be on Friday afternoon, when the draw takes place. It will be one of the following teams: AS Roma, Steaua Boekarest, FC Rostov, AS Monaco, Gladbach of Young Boys. The stakes of this double header on August 16/17 and 23/24 is a ticket for the main tournament of the highest podium in European football.
PAOK - Ajax 1-2 (1-1): 4. Klaus 1-0, 45+1. Klaassen 1-1 (pen), 87. Klaassen 1-2.
Line up Ajax: Cillessen; Tete, Veltman, Westermann, Viergever, Dijks; Gudelj, Riedewald, Klaassen; Dolberg (64. El Ghazi), Cassierra.