Ajax failed to reach the UEFA Champions League main tournament on Wedneday evening. It was painful. In Russia, Peter Bosz’s team lost 4-1 to Rostov. After the 1-1 draw in Amsterdam, Ajax now has the UEFA Europa League’s group phase left.
On an especially tough night for Ajax in Rostov, Southern Russia, the team took an unabashed beating. Rostov trumped Ajax on all fronts in the Olimp-2 stadium. After this heavy defeat, Ajax will miss out on the Champions League main tournament for the second year in a row.
Compared to the home game loss against Willem II, Bosz had amended his team in no fewer than four positions. Jasper Cillessen, who had been absent from the match selection last weekend due to FC Barcelona’s interest in him, and Kenny Tete (instead of Davinson Sánchez), appeared at kick-off. Nemanja Gudelj was also back in the line-up, at the expense of Donny van de Beek, after missing out last week due to an injury to his leg. Mitchell Dijks had still not sufficiently recovered, and his spot was taken by Nick Viergever.
After the 1-1 in Amsterdam, Ajax simply had to score in the tropical weather conditions of Russia in order to remain in contention for the Champions League. During the first match, a solid Ajax had had several scoring opportunities but hadn’t managed to convert them. Peter Bosz wanted to see the same Ajax in Rostov as eight days before. He had given instructions that the finishing needed to improve, as he had said on the eve of the ‘match of the year’. Unfortunately, none of that came true.
In the opening minutes, Cillessen saved Ajax from an early deficit when Aleksandr Erokhin appeared right in front of the goal. His shot was turned away by the keeper. Midway through the first half, Ajax had its first real chance via Bertrand Traoré. The loaned-out player from Chelsea sent the ball over the goal from nearby after reacting swiftly to a deflected shot by Nemanja Gudelj.
After that, it was the home team who took control again. First, defender Timofei Kalachev sent the ball long of the goal. After that, in the 34th minute, a goal came. Sardar Azmoun sent a header from a Russian pass into the goal. The forward from Iran was head and shoulders above everyone and put Ajax into a deficit: 1-0.
But with a 0-1 score on the board, Ajax’s position remained unchanged. The team still needed to score a goal in order to keep its chances for the main tournament alive. This mission moved further out of reach when the Russian team scored its second goal. The Russians scored on a header again, this time via Erokin: 2-0. Any possibility of overtime was thus still in the cards, but Ajax would need to score at least twice to keeps its chances alive.
In order to force something in the front, Bosz brought in an extra forward half an hour before the end. Kasper Dolberg came in for Riechedly Bazoer for the last thirty minutes. Unfortunately, this didn’t bear fruit, as a few minutes later, another Russian goal was scored. Christian Noboa, who had also scored in Amsterdam, worked the ball out of the clutch with his knee pass Cillessen: 3-0. But there was even more to come, as the hosts struck again seven minutes later. Dmitry Poloz crowned a Russian break-out with the fourth goal of the evening. His outplayed the Ajax keeper and brought the final score to a painful 4-0.
Six minutes before time, Davy Klaassen scored the last goal, 4-1. Ajax’s captain took advantage of a free kick after Dolberg had been hauled down by Fyodor Kudryashov (red card). It was just for the statistics, because that goal wasn’t enough to prevent elimination from the tournament. Rostov will go into the Champions League draw. Ajax will find out which team it will meet in the Europa League on Friday.
Score summary: 34. Azmoun 1-0, 52. Jerochin 2-0, 60. Noboa 3-0, 66. Poloz 4-0, 84. Klaassen 4-1 (pen).
Line-up Ajax: Cillessen, Tete, Veltman, Riedewald, Viergever, Bazoer (58. Dolberg), Klaassen, Gudelj, El Ghazi (46. Schöne), Traoré, Younes (77. Cassierra).