Ajax come up short and fall to Benfica

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Edsonbaalt1280

Benfica reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening at the expense of Ajax. The Portuguese side were shock 0-1 winners. Despite a strong first half, Ajax were unable to take the lead. Benfica sealed their only chance in the second half, which was enough for the win.

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Tuesday’s match was Erik ten Hag’s fiftieth in Europe as the coach at Ajax. He was forced to make one change from the starting eleven from the first game in Lisbon - Andre Onana replaced Remko Pasveer, who has now been injured for several matches. Ajax began the night with lots of energy, powered by a full Johan Cruijff ArenA.

Ajax unable to capitalize
Ten Hag's team put on the pressure from the first minute, with Antony getting a headed chance two minutes in. They dominated the period that followed, searching for a hole in the Portuguese defense. A lovely ball from Dusan Tadic put Haller in on goal, and the Ivorian scored but the goal was ruled out for the Serbian being offside in the build-up.

Ajax maintained the pressure, though, constantly working to test the Benfica back line. The pressure provided some good opportunities down the flanks, but they lacked any sharpness in front of goal. In the 37th minute Ryan Gravenberch cut in from the left wing and whipped a shot a goal. His shot was struck with power, but Benfica’s Vlachodimos managed to push it over the bar.

Benfica scores opening goal
Ten Hag’s team came out of the dressing room well and quickly created an opportunity via Tadic. The Serbian captain did well to create space for himself on the edge of the penalty area, but his shot went high over the Benfica goal.

Where Ajax could not find the back of the net, Benfica did in the 77th minute. A foul from Edson Álvarez led to a free kick deep in the corner of the Ajax end. Benfica striker Darwin Nunez headed the ball in over an outstretched Onana, who misjudged the bending cross.

Ajax’s final attacks
Ten minutes before full time, Ten Hag made two offensive substitutions. Steven Berghuis was replaced by Davy Klaassen and Brian Brobbey came in for Álvarez. Ajax played with two strikers, with Brobbey supporting Haller.

In the final stages, the supporters gave one last push to the team. Brobbey had a huge opportunity, but Vlachodimos came out on top once more. The flag went up for offsides, although it was not immediately clear if the Dutchman was actually offside. Brobbey’s miss made it a moot point. In the end everything came up short.

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