As the two matches against PAOK had begun, Ajax also ended this first match in the play-offs against Rostov with a 1-1 tie. The Russians took an early lead in the Amsterdam ArenA but the dominant Ajacieds, via Davy Klaaseen, tied the game before halftime. Despite a significant Amsterdam dominance, the game remained tied.
Because of this tie, Rostov will go into the next game, which takes place in eight days, with a slight advantage. Ajax will need to score. Based on how they played, that is not an unreasonable goal for the Ajacieds, who had the reigns in their hands for almost the entire match.
Sold out ArenA
The Champions League hymn played in Amsterdam for the first time in twenty months. Ajax played its last Champions League match on December 10, 2014, against APOEL (4-0). That was the last match of the group phase, which is the stage that Ajax is hoping to reach now, at Rostov´s expense. Ajax was supported by a sold-out ArenA. 51.463 tickets were sold.
At the outset, Rostov´s strenghts were difficult to evaluate. The club from the south of Russia is largely unknown, but earned a second place in the Premier League and eliminated Anderlecht, which are not to be taken lightly. Under Kurban Berdyev, Rostov´s performance had taken off. At the time of Ajax´s last Champions League match, in December 2014, the club was at the bottom. Eighteen months later, Rostov almost won the championship. After defeating Anderlecht, Rostov announced that he was leaving. But as an agreement with a new club still hasn´t been worked out, the coach travelled to Amsterdam as an advisor.
The last matches, against Sparta and Roda, went the same way. Ajax attacked, and the opponent defended. The match against Rostov followed this pattern too, but Rostov seemed to intentionally chose to stay back. Immediately after kick-off, the visitors put together a type of handball defense, which is the team´s trademark, from the scouting report.
It didn´t do Ajax much good that Rostov´s first break-out resulted in an immediate goal. After thirteen minutes, play-maker Christian Noboa sent Jasper Cillessen onto the wrong side with a free kick:0-1. The ArenA went dead quiet. Prior to that, Ajax had been on top. The rest of the first half was no different. The home team tightened the screws, poking holes in the Russian defense regularly, but this didn´t result in a goal.
Keeper Soslan Dzhanayev was always in the way. He saved a header by Klaassen, a long distance shot from Anwar El Ghazi, and also blocked a double attempt by Bertrand Traoré and, later, from Amin Younes. This last player also had the best opportunity of the first half. The German misfired by the second post after a good pass by El Ghazi.
But Ajax was rewarded for its hard work in the first half. The Scottish referee, Collum, indicated the point after a shot from Riechedly Bazoer was touched by Cesar Navas´ hand. Captain Klaassen remained cold-blooded – as he had against PAOK – and scored his third European goal of this season: 1-1.
The second half had a less spectacular conclusion than the first. Ajax was still dominant, but the opportunities presented themselves at a much slower pace than before the break. Traoré got a good opportunity, but his header after another pass from El Ghazi was saved by Dzhanayev. The outstanding goalie also stopped a powerful long-distance shot by Gudelj in the 68th minute.
Bosz tried to give the Amsterdam team a fresh impulse in the final minutes by brining in Kasper Dolberg and Mateo Cassierra, but it was too late. Avoiding a second goal was the priority, so Ajax wasn´t going for broke at that point.