Ajax makes flying start in Champions League



Ajax posted a convincing win on Tuesday evening’s UEFA Champions League group phase game.  Last season’s semi-finalist defeated Lille by 3-0 at home in the Johan Cruijff ArenA.  Goals were scored by Quincy Promes, Edson Álvarez and Nico Tagliafico.

With this win, Ajax took the lead in pool H with the goal balance.  The other group match between Chelsea and Valencia ended at 0-1.  In two weeks, Erik ten Hag’s team will continue their adventure in Spain, at Valencia.

Dest and Neres back on the squad
Ajax met the French competition’s runner up with two changes compared to the match against Heerenveen (4-1).  Sergiño Dest and David Neres had a spot on the squad this time, at the expense of Perr Schuurs and Klaas Jan Huntelaar.  Donny van de Beek and Noussair Mazraoui were absent due to injuries.

After last season’s success in European competition, all eyes were on Ajax.  Until now, Ajax has had very few problems.  They survived two qualifying rounds unscathed, against PAOK and APOEL.  And the Ajacieds were in control against Lille as well.

As had been expected, the French team mostly waited for the counter.  Ajax had by far the most ball possession, and they are also the ones who created the most danger.  In the 13th minute, they created danger for the first time.  Hakim Ziyech got the crowd to its feet with a beautiful play and a hard shot.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t rewarded for his efforts.  The shot hit the crossbar.

More opportunities followed for Promes and Álvarez, and the goal came in the 18th minute.  A pass from Tagliafico was ticked in by Promes: 0-1.

Onana makes agile save
Forced onto its back foot, Lille, slowed came out of its shell and the game became more balanced.  Prior to halftime, the French team had a huge chance to even the game.  Andre Onana made an agile save on a shot from inside the penalty kick area, and, to his great relief, saw Victor Osimhen’s shot sail over the goal.

Ajax went into halftime with the lead, and, made good again early in the second half.  Neres sent Álvarez in and the Mexican player sent a shot in from a seemingly impossible angle: 2-0.  Ajax was sitting pretty and gained confidence.  A short phase ensued during which Ajax brought the crowd to its feet with several heel-passes.  A Zidane-like move from Dest was the high point.

The ArenA was lively and things only got better.  In the 62nd minute, Tagliafico sent a header in from a corner, 3-0.  It seemed like a copy of his goal from Saturday’s game against Heerenveen, which also came from a corner

In the final minutes, there were some dangerous moments in front of both goals, but no goals were scored.  Just like in last season’s game against AEK Athens, Ajax kicked off the group phase with a 3-0 win.  Who knows where it will lead to this time?