Ajax through to Europa League group phase

Ajax through to Europa League group phase

Ajax fought a true battle for survival against FK Jablonec. After the 1-0 home game win against FK Jablonec, the match stranded at 0-0 in the Czech Republic. That was a small miracle, as Ajax had a penalty against them and was forced to continue with only ten men after a second yellow card, thus a red card, for Riechedly Bazoer.

“A match like this is bad for the heart and for the hair”, said De Boer, reacting on Ajax TV after the match. “You can go grey from this. But we made it in the end and that’s what’s important. This was critical for Ajax and Dutch football.”

It was difficult, but the signs for the return against FK Jablonec were promising. In the Eredivisie, Ajax still hadn’t suffered a single goal against, and keeper Jasper Cillessen had also kept a clean sheet in the home game against the team from northern Czech Republic. If they could repeat that feat on Thursday evening, Ajax would qualify for the Europa League group phase. With a 1-0 home win, a draw would be sufficient this time.

Routines

Surely Ajax, 26th in the UEFA rankings, shouldn’t have any trouble with the UEFA’s 174th ranked team? Especially not since the squad has been refining its routines more and more. That’s why De Boer chose the same eleven players as for the home game. They also met eleven familiar opponents since Jaroslav Silhavy didn’t see any reason to change his squad, either.

In the hallways, you heard that this duel against Ajax would be FK Jablonec’s toughest yet. In the first half, the fans didn’t deny this in the sold-out stadium. They didn’t have much reason to, since the match seemed to be fulfilling this prediction in its first 45 minutes. There were two dangerous moments. The first was for FK Jablonec in the 24th minute. Nermin Crnkic charged to Jasper Cillessen at high speed, but the keeper threw himself in front of the ball and diffused the dangerous moment.

The other one was on a corner by Nemanja Gudelj. The ball arrived at Joël Veltman’s feet, and he had a great chance to score the opening goal – which he didn’t. The only very notable fact in this match was the high number of yellow cards assigned in the otherwise calm match. Milik and Crnkic got theirs for taking dives, and Bazoer and Gregus for slight fouls.

Fischer

Viktor Fischer took over the left wing from Daley Sinkgraven in the second half. The home team also brought in a new forward in the second half. Tomás Wagner relinquished his spot to Stanislav Tecl. Jablonec also started pushing forward more and more. They obviously had no choice if they wanted to qualify for the group phase. Ajax was mainly focused on ball possession. This didn’t result in breathtaking football. Things also seemed go completely south for Ajax in the 57th minute. On a defensive play, Riedewald slid and touched the ball with his hand. A penalty was the result. Cillessen dove into the right corner and, to his great relief, saw Gregus’ shot hit the post. Not even one minute later, Bazoer received his second yellow card and Ajax had to make to with only ten players for the last half hour. Each Ajacied needed to shift into higher gear.

De Boer substituted Milik for Van Rhijn in the 69th minute. Two minutes later, Dijks almost scored the opening goal from a corner. The ball hit the outside of the post. A few minutes later Jablonec, who didn’t seem poised for success at this point, had the opportunity to force and extension. Posposil saw his attempt go wide. Ajax also had a few more opportunities thanks to Klaassen and Fischer, but in the end, they were simply relieved with the outcome of a tie.