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Ajax wins nail-biter against Benfica

Ajax wins nail-biter against Benfica

It doesn’t get much better than this.  In the 92nd minute, Noussair Mazraoui scored, via a Portuguese leg, bringing home the victory against Benfica.  As a result, Ajax heads into its 3rd Champions League match in first place of Group E – shared with Bayern Munich.

At the moment that French referee Ruddy Buquet signaled the start of Ajax - Benfica in the lively Johan Cruijff ArenA, Bayern Munich had bumped Ajax from first place in the group.  The Germans had defeated AEK 0-2 in Athens, meaning that Ajax was down 3 points against the leader of the group.  AEK Athens, with 0 points, was in last place.

Backs return
Coach Erik ten Hag was once again able to call on his backs – Mazraoui and Nico Tagliafico.  Rasmus Kristensen and Max Wöber were relegated to the bench.

Killer pace
Right from kick off, an amazing match took place at a killer pace.  Opportunities were rife for both teams, as were differences.  Benfica sought the attack after sloppiness from Ajax, while the Amsterdam team set up their offense at a quick pace from the the back.  For Benfica, Rafa Silva en Haris Seferovic had the best chances to score.  For Ajax, it was mainly Hakim Ziyech who created danger.

Vlachodimos prevents 1-0
But the biggest opportunity came in the 22nd minute for Kasper Dolberg.  With a lucky save with his hip, keeper Vlachodimos prevented Ajax from taking a 1-0 lead.  But this illustrated the fact that Ajax was having difficulty with Benfica. The Portuguese team dove like swans at every turn, and referee Buquet was not insensitive to this – to the disadvantage of the Ajacieds.

In the 41st minute, hands were in the air at Ajax after a high shot by Tagliafico disappeared into the goal.  But the technology at the goal line showed that the ball hadn’t completely passed the line.  The score at halftime, surprisingly enough, was 0-0.

Bated breath
After play had resumed in the ArenA, everyone watched with bated breath as a header from Van de Beek curved towards his own goal.  Fortunately, this ended well and the midfielder had the 1-0 goal at his feet in the 57th minute.  The ball, however, flew over the goal.  Almost 20 minutes later, Van de Beek had another outstanding opportunity, but once again, Benfica’s German keeper got his hand behind it, just as he did a few minutes later on Ziyech’s free kick.

ArenA erupts!
The game thundered towards its final minutes.  Tension was high until the last second.  Ajax tried to hurt a cautious Benfica, and they succeeded in the dying moments of the game.  Substitute David Neres stormed up to the back line and made a pass to where Noussair Mazraoui could pick up the ball even though Dolberg was being well guarded.  The former took a shot which went in, via a Portuguese toe: 1-0!

The Johan Cruijff ArenA erupted.  Soon after, Buquet blew the final whistle of the evening.  Ajax had won its 2nd home game, and shares the lead of Group E with Bayern Munich.