Ajax has won its second UEFA Europa League group match. The Ajacieds defeated Standard Luik by 1-0 at home. Kasper Dolberg’s goal in the 28th minute won the match.
Thanks to this second win, Ajax remains in first place in group G. Their lead on number two, Celta de Vigo, who defeated Panathinaikos, is two points. The Spaniards will be Ajax’s next opponent in two weeks. The team will have the opportunity to take another step towards remaining in the tournament after the winter break.
Against Standard, Ajax was finally able to win in front of its home crowd again in a European game. The last time the team had managed to do this was thirteen months ago, on August 20, against Jablonec. Five draws in the Amsterdam ArenA followed. Had Ajax tied again, they would become the first club in history to play to six straight European draws at home.
But fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Ajax won its second group match, something that they managed to do two times before: in 1995 and 1996. Both times, they reached the Champions League finals. It remains to be seen where this win will lead, but Ajax’s start is definitely promising.
Coach Bosz was forced to make one change in his starting line-up. Nemanja Gudelj replaced the suspended Hakim Ziyech. Otherwise, Bosz placed his faith in the same players who had convincingly beaten PEC Zwolle (5-1) on Saturday.
After a somewhat cautious start, Ajax looked good between the fifth and thirtieth minutes. This resulted in a slew of opportunities, the biggest one being for Davy Klaassen. After a wonderful attack, which involved Bertrand Traoré, the hard-working Amin Younes freed up his captain. Klaassen stumbled onto keeper Jean-Francois Gillet from nearby, and further shots from Traoré and Dolberg didn’t cause him any problems.
Ajax took the lead after 28 minutes. This time, a great attack was converted. Gudelj found Traoré, who, in turn, played to Dolberg on the go. The Danish wunderkind didn’t falter close up with goalie Gillet, and pinned the opening goal with a low shot via the inside of the post: 1-0.
After the goal, Standard came out of its shell somewhat, and the Belgians created some danger several times from the right side. Matthieu Dossevi’s passes in Ajax’s penalty area found no receiver, thus concrete danger remained at bay. The Ajacieds had one more big opportunity, but Dolberg, from a great position, decided to pass the ball. In hindsight, taking the shot himself would have been the better option. As it was, Klaassen just came up too short to convert Dolberg’s pass into a goal.
Weaker second half
The entertainment value of the match took a nosedive in the second half. Standard took over the reins from Ajax and were the dominant team on the field. But this didn’t result in any good opportunities. After 63 minutes, Darwin Andrade could have pulled the trigger, but his attempt was very poor.
After 69 minutes, Bosz made his second substitution. Seven minutes after Jairo Riedewald came in, Mateo Cassierra replaced goal-scorer Dolberg. The Colombian added value immediately with a good cross-pass to Younes. The German was hauled down by Collins Fai just outside of the box, and the latter received a yellow card for his efforts. Gudlej shot just wide on the free kick. Moments later, Younes made his presence felt. His shot went wide, but it livened up the crowd. Finally, something exciting was happening.
In the final minutes, Ajax’s focus was defending its lead. Standard pressed on but Ajax held its ground. Two dicey moments took place. A wonderful long-distance shot by Isaac Mbenza exploded against the post six minutes before time. The Amsterdam ArenA breathed a sigh of relief, which happened again in extra time when goalie Andre Onana made a beautiful save on a shot by Jean-Luc Dompé, rescuing it out of the upper corner.