On Wednesday evening, Ajax played to a 2-2 tie against OGC Nice in the third-round qualifying match for the UEFA Champions League. Because of the 1-1 result in France, OGC Nice is the team that will advance to the next round. Donny van de Beek and Davinson Sánchez scored for Ajax. This, unfortunately, wasn’t sufficient to continue in the Champions League. For Ajax, the next step will be a double header to reach the Europa League group phase.
Stay Strong Appie
During the morning, a banner with number 34 adorned the outside of the Amsterdam ArenA. Prior to, and during, the game, thoughts turned to Abdelhak Nouri. A few minutes before the players came onto the field, Ajax showed a video tribute to Ajax’s beloved number 34. Supporters remained silent to think about the player’s grave situation. A large portrait of Nouri adorned al large part of the ArenA’s south side as both teams walked onto the field.
Coach Marcel Keizer didn’t make any changes to last week’s squad, but had made a few to the match selection. Mitchell Dijks is once again fit and returned to the team, at the expense of 20 year-old Damil Dankerlui.
At the press conference, Keizer had said that Nice was a sturdy opponent. After just three minutes of play, this proved to be the case. Lees-Melou charged towards André Onana alone. The keeper made the initial save, but couldn’t stop the rebound, shot in via Arnaud Souquet, who had come up. After this early lead, OGC Nice remained dangerous. After eight minutes of play, according to referee Andre Marriner, Sánchez made a foul on the edge of the box and received a yellow card. No immediate danger came from the resulting free kick.
As the first half drew on, Ajax picked up its game. Justin Kluivert had a bit part in this. He seriously outplayed his direct opponent, Malang Sarr, on many occasions. The ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ could be heard from the stands whenever Kluivert made such a play. Just as it had been in Nice, this good Ajax phase was crowned with a goal by Donny van de Beek. After a pass from Hakim Ziyech, Nouri’s close friend magnificently pivoted away from the French central defenders, and sent the ball past keeper Yoan Cardinale. An explosion of joy followed.
When 34 minutes had been played, the entire ArenA rose to its feet for Nouri. The applause was so intense that Marriner stopped the game so that the players could participate in this show of support.
The Ajacieds came out of the starting blocks well in the second half. A volley by Donny van de Beek ended on Cardinale’s fists, but the goalkeeper was powerless after an amazing attack which ended with Sánchez. Ziyech sent the ball onto Viergever’s head, and he sent a perfect header back to Sánchez, who had come up: 2-1.
Ten minutes before time, Nice tied the game at 2-2. Substitute Vincent Marcel ensured that Ajax would need to score another goal to reach the Champions League play-offs. David Neres and Huntelaar, who made his grand entrance, were brought in to save the day, but this didn’t happen. Ajax will now to the UEFA Europa League play-offs.