Ajax played up to its potential on Tuesday against Paris Saint-Germain, in Parc des Princes, but was unable to pull off an upset. With a 3-1 loss, the stride for a UEFA Europa League ticket will be exciting until the end. The final round of the CL will determine if Ajax will play European football after the winter break.
With the home loss against FC Barcelona, Ajax lost its last chance to play in the UEFA Champions League after the winter break. The focus is now on a continuation in the UEFA Europa League. The deciding meeting against Apeol, on December 10, cast its shadow on Parc des Princes – which was no surprise.
Frank de Boer alluded to ‘December 10’ carefully but clearly in his starting line-up. The Ajax coach spared his – normally speaking – core players Niklas Moisander and Anwar El Ghazi. The defender and forward are on ‘notice’ in the CL. A yellow card would mean a suspension in the critical game against Apoel in the Amsterdam ArenA. With the replacement for the suspended Joël Veltman factored in, Stefano Denswil got the call on defense and Mike van der Hoorn got a shot in the starting line-up.
On offense, Ricardo Kishna was a newcomer to Ajax’s starting line-up. The left forward saw his great substitution against Heerenveen, crowned with a goal and an assist, rewarded by De Boer. The away game against PSG offered his players a unique opportunity to build up valuable experience at the highest level of football. An equal result, not to mention an even better one that from the home game (1-1), would also give the team a huge confidence boost.
De Boer’s adversary Laurent Blanc had problems of his own. However, the absence of Thiago Motta and Thiago Silva from his selection was relatively easy to fix.
The same went for the absence of Marco Verratti and Yohan Cabaye. These absences were handily replaced by Blanc with an internationally acclaimed replacement. The former world champion also started former Ajax players Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Maxwell and Gregory van der Wiel. The CL duel was an opportunity, just like previously in the ArenA (1-1), a new face-off with familiar faces.
PSG can fight it out with Barcelona to see who will win the pool. That has already been determined. The French national champion entered the second-to-last round of play as the leader of Group F. The difference with Barcelona (who defeated Apoel the same evening 4-0) was one point in favour of the French team.
“We are going for third place”, said De Boer the evening before in the Parc des Princes. The Ajacieds followed their coach’s instructions and did what they could in Parc des Princes. Before the break, this resulted in very few opportunities for Amsterdam. Ajax may have had more possession, but the Parisians were dangerous. Nicolai Boilesen’s early exit was a setback, especially for the Dane himself. The Ajax captain was forced to retire after a hard collision from former Ajacied Gregory van der Wiel. Boilesen sustained band injuries in his right knee, according to the first prognosis. Nick Viergever replaced the unlucky Dane. Midfielder Klaassen continued the game as the captain.
Jasper Cillessen prevented the team going down midway through the first half. The keeper prevented Ezequiel Lavezzi from scoring. Nine minutes later, Ajax did suffer a goal against. Sloppy loss of possession was brutally punished: Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani appeared in front of Cillessen, after which the last player was able to score easily: 1-0. This seemed to be a breaking point in the match, but Ajax came back into the match. Especially before the break, the Dutch champion played especially well. Striker Arek Milik unluckily was unable to create danger shortly before the break. Ajax reaped the fruit of its hard work later on. On a pass from Ricardo Kishna, Klaassen scored with a flying header: 1-1. It seemed to be the beginning of something great. Especially when, shortly after, Ricardo van Rhijn sent a shot just over the goal.
Ajax was quickly relieved of its illusions. Who other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic let his muscles ripple and feet speak. The Swedish former Ajacied took advantage of the space the Ajax defense gave him with a spot-on shot: 2-1. Five minutes later, Cavani dealt the final blow. Loss of possession by substitute Niki Zimling was punished by the Uruguayan star.
Thus the stand in pool F remained unchanged. Ajax and Apoel will battle for a European ticket in the last round of play. Leader PSG and second placed Barcelona share the top positions. Thus, all prospects of a different outcome were left stranded in Parc des Princes.