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Ajax through to Champions League play-offs

Ajax through to Champions League play-offs

In a tough nail-biter, Ajax defeated PAOK in the 3rd qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.  After 90 minutes, the Amsterdam goals scored by Dusan Tadic (2x) and Nico Tagliafico were enough to secure a 3-2 win against the Greek team, and a spot in the play-offs.  Thanks to this win, Ajax will definitely play European football this season.

Because of the 2-2 draw in Thessaloniki last week, Erik ten Hag had maneuvered itself into a good position.  But it’s not Ajax’s style to play tentatively, as Ten Hag said at the pre-game press conference.  “Out attitude must be to win this game.  That’s what we’re going for, that’s what fits us.”

Van de Beek comes close
The unchanged starting line-up definitely had the right approach at the start of this clash against PAOK.  After 7 minutes, the first big opportunity of the game came after Donny van de Beek had played the ball through his opponent’s legs.  PAOK keeper Paschalakis came out of his goal in time to make the save.

Shortly after that, the midfielder came close to scoring once again.  But after a good set up with Ziyech, the keeper was again able to block his shot.

Wave of attacks by PAOK
From the first whistle, the Greeks were lying in wait for the counter, which paid off in the 13th minute.  A free Chuba Akpom took a long shot, which went over the goal.

10 minutes later, the tam from Thessaloniki scored.  Dutch player Diego Biseswar took a shot from the edge of the box and made good in the near corner: 0-1.

Two penalty kicks 
Fifteen minutes before the break, David Neres was unceremoniously shoved in the box, and Tadic stepped up to the ball at twelve yards out.  The Serbian player’s shot was blocked, but, in the 43rd minute, he had a second chance.  This time, number 10 sent his shot straight through the middle: 1-1!

Dest comes in for Marin
Erik ten Hag’s team started the second half with one change.  Sergino Dest replaced Razvan Marin, making Noussair Mazraoui move over to midfield.

The game ebbed back and forth with both teams seeking to attack.  Where Biseswar had made a dangerous play, on the other side Neres had a good chance to score.  But the Brazilian player’s volley sailed about one meter wide of the goal.

The tension rises

In a sold-out Johan Cruijff ArenA, everyone was on the edge of their seat.  In the 77th minute, everyone cheered when Tadic came close to scoring another goal for the Amsterdam team.  But two minutes later, Tagliafico’s goal brought joy and relief to the stands: 2-1!!

Tadic brings Ajacieds to the next round!
After 84 minutes of play, captain Tadic scored the liberating goal.  After Klaas Jan Huntelaar had been hauled down inside the box, the Serb sent the 3-1 goal against the ropes.

In extra time, the Greek team brought the score to 3-2, via Diego Biseswar, with one tense minute left on the clock.  In the 95th minute, referee Craig Pawson whistle finally blew to signal the end of the game.  A spot in the Champions League play-offs was in the pocket for the Ajacieds!

Opponent for the final qualifying round CL known
APOEL defeated Qarabag from Azerbaijan in 2 games.  The Cypriot team will thus be Ajax’s opponent on August 20th (in Cyprus) and on August 28th prior to the Champions League pool phase.

Score summary Ajax – PAOK: 23. Biseswar 0-1, 43. Tadic 1-1, 79. Tagliafico 2-1, 84. Tadic 3-1, 94. Biseswar 3-2.

Line-up Ajax: Onana; Mazraoui, Veltman, Martinez, Tagliafico; Blind, Marin (46. Dest), Van de Beek; Neres (77. Huntelaar), Tadic en Ziyech.