Ajax heading towards remaining in Champions League after winter break

Ajax heading towards remaining in Champions League after winter break

On Wednesday, Ajax took an important step towards remaining in the UEFA Champions League after the winter break.  The Ajacieds played to a 1-1 draw against Benfica in Lisbon, and kept their 4 point lead against the Portuguese team intact.  Benfica took an early lead via Jonas, but Dusan Tadic scored the tying goal after an hour of play.

Bayern Munich defeated AEK Athens by 2-0, thus taking sole possession of first place in group E.  the German team has 10 points, 2 more than Ajax.  The Ajacieds visit AEK, who have no points to date, and could secure their passage into the next round of the tournament.  They would have done the same had they won in the Estádio de Luz, but they didn’t manage to do this.

Tadic scores again
Coach Erik ten Hag chose the Bayern Munich variation in Lisbon.  That meant that Tadic was in point.  The experiment with the Serb as a fake centre forward had worked will in the previous game against Bayern Munich.  But although they had been fluid one month ago in Munich, they were stodgy at the start of this game in Portugal.  Ajax couldn’t find its rhythm in the first half.  Benfica was also unable to bring much in return, but was most threatening in the first half.  Andre Onana made a save with his foot six minutes into the game on a shot by Franco Cervi.

Later on, Onana had a starring role again, but not in a good way.  The Cameroonian faltered at a ball thrown in deep by Benfica.  He misjudged and Jonas took full advantage: 1-0.

Danger via free kicks
Ajax didn’t find its rhythm, but shortly before the break, perked up, both times on a free kick.  First, Hakim Ziyech fired onto the fists of Odisseas Vlachodimos.  Lasse Schöne’s shot right before halftime created more danger.  Vlachodimos saved this attempt as well, but Tadic was just able to keep the ball in.                  

After halftime, Ajax again took the first shots.  In the 58th minute, Neres came over the left side.  Tadic was unable to give the Brazilian’s pass enough power or speed to create any danger.

After that, Tadic served Van de Beek, who had the goal at his feel.  The midfielder’s shot went wide.  Frenkie de Jong was clearly upset.  The midfielder had been completely free, but Van de Beek hadn’t noticed.

Ajax perseveres
It was just a matter of time, though, because 2 minutes later, the goal came.  Via an amazing pass via Ziyech, Tadic became free in front of the goal.  The left-footed player was driven into a tough spot, but remained standing and went on to make a heroic shot.  The ball curved right into the Benfica goal: 1-1!

Onana’s feline saves
Ajax was in a good position.  The same can’t be said of Benfica, who needed to win.  The home team sought the 2-1 in the final minutes, but Ajax held on, thanks to Onana.  The keeper made two good saves from nearby.  He was thus able to end the match on a good note.