Ajax still has a good chance to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter final round. Just like in Amsterdam, the meeting with Olympique Lyon ended in a 0-0 tie in France. Ajax therefore still holds the cards for their chances in the next round. In the home match against Real Madrid, who has already qualified, the winter break can definitely be secured. Davy Klaassen (18) made his debut just before the match’s end.
With a beautiful cheer from the visitors’ stands, Vermeer was honoured by the fans after the last whistle blew. After two unfortunate performances in competition matches, Ajax’s number 1 came back with a vengeance in Lyon. With several superb saves, he kept a clean sheet, allowing Ajax to earn its eighth point in group D. With a three point lead and much better goal balance than Lyon (+7), Ajax could become the first Dutch club in five years to make it through the winter break in Champions League on December 7. That evening, when Lyon visits Dinamo Zagreb, Ajax will host Real Madrid in the Amsterdam ArenA. The fact that Real Madrid, who has already qualified, will play ‘El Clasico’ against FC Barcelona a few days later, could be an advantage.
During this tumultuous time with Ajax, a win on field is more than welcome. Not least because of the difficult last few competition matches. The Champions League duels have been a pleasant exception, as was once again clear on Tuesday. For the fourth time in five group matches, Ajax kept a clean sheet. Ajax was even in the comfortable position of only needing a 1-1 tie in Lyon to assure itself of a longer stay in Champions League. With 0-0, Ajax took a big step in the right direction, although the true outcome will only be confirmed in two weeks. But Ajax has at least assured itself of a spot in Europa League after the winter break. “But I’m very satisfied about this match. We had everything in our own hands”, said a pleased De Boer afterwards. “You can play to a tie in many ways, but this was a tie, and good football, too. That’s what we wanted. Compliments to the way we went to battle. I’m proud of this team.”
Ajax brought a very young team to Lyon. Theo Janssen was the only player over the age of thirty in the team packed with players in their twenties, and a bench full of teenagers. Due to injuries, De Boer chose Nicolas Lodeiro once again in France for the centre forward position. He had fulfilled this role last Saturday against NAC after Dmitry Bulykin had to exit with an injury in the first half. With two assists, the Uruguayan native had a strong hand in the 2-2 tie. In France, however, he didn’t manage to make his mark as strongly as he had three days earlier.
The most dangerous moments before the break came from Janssen (long distance shot) and Sulejmani. After that, Ajax had a few opportunities that didn’t ruffle the French team too much. On the other side, Vermeer made a few great saves against Lisandro, among others. Moreover, Ajax escaped narrowly when Briand’s blind shot seared past the post.
In the first fifteen minutes after the break, Ajax pressed twice on offense. First, it was Vertonghen who came close to scoring when he came free in front of the keeper. Later, Sulejmani had a good opportunity, but his ticked shot went over the goal. It showed that there was more to be had in Lyon than a tie. On the other side, the home team was losing faith as the goals failed to materialize. This resulted in a dangerous Bastos shot, which was answered by Vermeer.
Vermeer made several fantastic saves in the last fifteen minutes. He prevented Bastos (again) and substitute Lacazette from scoring. With Gourcuff, he had luck on his side when the Frenchman had a great opportunity and took a firm shot, which ended up next to the goal via the post. The 0-0 was certainly mostly due to Vermeer’s work.
Five minutes before time, Davy Klaassen made his debut with jersey number 39. The 18 year old captain of Ajax A1 got a taste of the big leagues and the next round, which is still within reach after this tie against Lyon. In a sold out ArenA, Ajax need to protect their three point lead and better goal balance thank Lyon. But, they need to do that against Real Madrid.