The Ajax Under 19s qualified for the final of the NextGen Series on Wednesday evening in an impressive manner. At the St. Helens RFC rugby stadium the Under 19s achieved a clear 0-6 win over Liverpool. Viktor Fischer (hat trick), Davy Klaassen (twice) and Lesley de Sa scored in England.
The other semi final between Internazionale and Olympique Marseille will take place next Wednesday. The final is to be played on Sunday 25 March at Leyton Orient in London.
The Liverpool FC speaker announced the match at halftime during the Liverpool – Everton match at Anfield on Tuesday evening, calling it a ‘big, big match’ for the Liverpool U19s. One day after the Merseyside-derby, which the Ajax players attended by invitation of Liverpool, they were themselves the centre of attention at Langtree Park on Wednesday evening. Around 6,000 English supporters came to watch the encounter between the Liverpool and Ajax Under 19s. The match was also televised live in the Netherlands and England, something the front runner in the Under 19s league is not accustomed to.
Because of the postponed match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield, the organisers of the NextGen Series moved to the brand new St. Helens RFC’s rugby stadium, about twenty kilometres outside Liverpool. Of course they played the club anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ there as well. The deejay had plenty of time to play the song before the match, as kickoff was postponed by fifteen minutes twice, due to heavy traffic outside the stadium. This was far from ideal for the players, of course. Yet it was an indication of how important this younger version of the UEFA Champions League is perceived to be.
It turned out to be worth the wait, because a lot happened in the first ten minutes already. Manager Fred Grim had told his players beforehand that they were to make a mark for themselves and for the Ajax Academy. Preferably the way they had done a month previously in the quarter final against FC Barcelona U19s (3-0 win away against Barcelona). Viktor Fischer, who scored two of the three goals in Spain, took those words to heart. In the seventh minute the Danish top talent put Ajax into the lead. After a fine attack involving multiple players, Fischer shot the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward. A goal which also earned him applause from the English.
The joy over the opening goal was short-lived. Only four minutes later the home team were awarded a penalty after Liverpool’s most dangerous weapon, Raheem Sterling, went down in the penalty box in a one-on-one with Ruben Ligeon. The penalty turned out to be an easy catch for Mickey van der Hart. The goalkeeper stood out with two fabulous saves to Suso’s shot, enabling Ajax to maintain their lead.
In the rest of the open first half Ajax dominated, but there were opportunities on both sides. Sporkslede, Ligeon and De Sa all came close to scoring the second goal. Shortly before halftime the fourth opportunity did result in a goal. De Sa responded quickly in the rebound after a shot by Fischer. From a short distance the right winger tapped the ball in, 2-0.
Three minutes after halftime Fischer shattered any hopes the English might still have had of making it to the final. After a shot by team captain Davy Klaassen, Fischer struck. From a rebound he put Ajax into a 0-3 lead. Feeling strengthened by the great score, the Under 19s used the second half to, as Grim put it, make their mark even more convincingly. Playing with three substitutes, the Under 19s eventually got up to a 0-6 score. Two goals by Davy Klaassen and the third one by star player Fischer brought the same kind of vibe to the evening that was felt in Barcelona a month earlier.
The thunderous applause after the final whistle said a lot about the English appreciation of the football spectacular performed by the Under 19s. Ajax won itself some new fans last Wednesday.
Line-up Ajax U19s: Mickey van der Hart, Ruben Ligeon (69. Sven Nieuwpoort), Joël Veltman, Stefano Denswil, Mitchell Dijks, Fabian Sporkslede, Davy Klaassen, Mats Rits, Lesley de Sa, Rowendey Schoop (65. Danzell Gravenberch), Viktor Fischer (75. Abdelmak El Hasnaoui).