There were undoubtedly mixed feelings afterwards. In an amazing first half hour, Ajax took the lead in the UEFA Champions League game against Tottenham Hotspur thanks to a goal by Donny van de Beek. But they struggled after that against a physically strong home team. There were opportunities to score the 0-2 goal, but the final score was 0-1. Next week is the deciding game!
The noise around the first Champions League semi-finals was definitely positive. If Ajax had brought both Real Madrid and Juventus to its knees, surely they could do the same against Tottenham Hotspur? But wasn’t that the danger? On paper, coach Mauricio Pochettino’s team is perhaps not of the caliber of Ajax’s previous two opponents. The English team, however, had eliminated Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City, thus not to be underestimated.
No Nous, but Joël and Nico
In Tottenham Hotspur’s amazing new stadium, coach Erik ten Hag chose Joël Veltman over Noussair Mazraoui as right back. There were no other spots in the starting line-up for the Moroccan player as, compared to the away game against Juventus, Nico Tagliafico had returned after his suspension.
Ajax started this game in the same way it has started all of its European ones: dominantly, confidently, and offensively. Before the Spurs had even created a single nice attack, Ajax was already in the lead. In the 15th minute, Hakim Ziyech made an outstanding pass to Donny van de Beek, who was soon face to face with Hugo Lloris. It was a piece of cake for the Ajacied to pass the keeper: 0-1!
Big chance for 0-2
Ten minutes later, the score could have been 0-2 had Van de Beek made a better decision. He chose to attempt a goal himself, when passing back to David Neres would have been a better choice. After that, the fire went out in Ajax’s game somewhat. And then, it was lights out for Jan Vertonghen. The former Ajacied had a hard collision with another former Ajacied, Toby Alderweireld, and had to leave the field. With Moussa Sissoko coming in for him, Ajax was unable to regain the upper hand. In the final minutes of the first half, Tottenham forced Ajax back, but the tying goal didn’t come.
In the second half, the home team game out strong. Fernandon Llorente outplayed everyone in the penalty kick area in the first minute, but Ajax escaped unscathed. Tottenham Hotspur dominated, was strong when play resumed and Ten Hag’s team appeared only sporadically in front of Lloris. The tide had turned, and it was dangerous. A shot by Tagliafico went a hair wide and Neres had the 0-2 at his feet, but the post prevented the much desired second goal from coming.
In the meantime, Tottenham continued to apply pressure to get the tying goal on the board. But they didn’t succeed. Ajax returns to Amsterdam with a narrow but outstanding 0-1 win. Next week, the next match takes place in the Johan Cruijff ArenA.