Ajax gave a top performance in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League game. The first quarter-final against Schalke 04 ended in a resounding 2-0 win. Davy Klaassen, with his two goals, was just one of the outstanding players on Peter Bosz’s team.
The UEFA Europa League has been the stage on which the Ajacieds have reached great heights this season. The first official home game against the Königsblauen was a fitting continuation of Ajax’s European season so far. With a 2-0 win against Schalke, this European season isn’t over yet. Ajax has a great chance of reaching the EL semi-finals next week.
Amazing football evening in a lively ArenA
A stadium sold-out weeks ago, a reputable opponent from a top European competition, the first European quarter-finals since 2003, plus an almost entirely fit selection; all of the ingredients were there for an amazing evening of football in a passionate, lively ArenA. The return of popular former Ajacied Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave the evening an extra shine, even though the centre forward ended up playing only the last twenty minutes of the game.
With Donny van de Beek in for the suspended Lasse Schöne, the Ajacieds raged onto the ArenA grass. The Amsterdam team was able to repeat the same feat against Schalke 04 as they had against Feyenoord. Just like the Rotterdam team had experienced previously, the German team saw that there was nothing for them to win in Amsterdam.
Reprieve for Schalke
From kick-off, Ajax dominated, and took the lead after only twelve minutes. Van de Beek’s volley was – with some difficulty – stopped by Schalke goalie Ralf Fährmann. It was just a reprieve, however. Ten minutes later, Ajax rightfully received a penalty, after Amin Younes had been hauled down onto the grass by Alessandro Schöpf. Davy Klaassen sent the penalty impeccably past Fährmann: 1-0.
Davinson Sánchez came especially close to scoring Ajax’s second goal before the break. The central defender, who played a very strong game, saw his best shot hit the crossbar. On a rare opportunity for Schalke, Andre Onana was literally in the way. Centre forward Guido Burgsteller became very familiar with the Cameroonian Ajacied’s caliber as a keeper on Thursday evening. The 1-0 lead at halftime was on the narrow side; the team had had more opportunities to increase the lead in the first half.
Klaassen’s 2-0 demonstrates balance of power
The lead was increased early in the second half. It was Klaassen once again who scored. The blond captain struck after great prep work by right winger Justin Kluivert and, the architect of the attack and centre forward, Bertrand Traoré. The 2-0 demonstrated the balance of power on the field. Moreover: Ajax seemed on track to transform the return game in Gelsenkirchen into a mere formality.
Was it fatigue that began to plague the Ajacieds in the last half hour? Perhaps; regardless, the fast pace seemed to slow down gradually as the minutes ticked away on the clock. The same could be said of the accuracy of the passes; this had been considerably better in the first half. It was most likely the natural result of one hour of high-pressure football.
One thing that didn’t change is that Schalke remained one step behind Ajax. The Germans were unable to do anything more. Soon after David Neres came on (to substitute for Kluivert, who played very well), Younes sent his shot into the side net. Van de Beek shot the ball onto the crossbar moments later. Nick Viergever saw his header get blocked by Fährmann.
Ajax takes a big step towards the semi-finals
The Germans escaped a real trouncing. Ajax can consider itself contented with the clean and well deserved win. On Thursday, the Amsterdam team took a big step towards reaching the Europa League semi-finals.