Ajax didn’t play a great game in Cyprus. Erik ten Hag’s team couldn’t get further than a scoreless tie in the GSP Stadium. Ajax dominated the first fifteen minutes, but then retreated. Ajax received a total of 7 yellow cards, including 2 for Noussair Mazraoui. He will therefore be absent for the return game in 8 days.
Ajax started the game on Cyprus with 3 changes compared to the away game at VVV-Venlo (1-4). Mazraoui, who missed that game due to a knee injury, was fit enough to start.
Hakim Ziyech was back. The left-footed player had retiree early from Saturday’s VVV game due to ankle pain. In addition to him, Joel Veltman and David Neres also had a starting spot.
The Ajacieds started well and, initially, moved swiftly between APOEL’s lines. After 8 minutes of play, a beautiful pass by Ziyech resulted in the game’s first scoring opportunity. Dusan Tadic was unfortunately unable to extend the shot. After this, opportunities arose for Donny van de Beek, Daley Blind, Tadic and Neres, but these attempts were easily stopped by the Cypriot keeper.
An Amsterdam goal seemed poised to happen – until APOEL forward Moussa Al Tamari dribbled dangerously towards Andre Onana. The Ajacieds lost their focus and didn’t get back to the level they had been at in the game’s first half.
It wasn’t surprising that Al Tamari had the 1-0 at his feet in the 29th minute. His shot went wide of the Amsterdam goal. As the home team grew into the match, Ajax became mediocre. The teams headed into halftime with no score on the board.
Ajacieds on the hunt after the break
Just like in the first half, the Amsterdam team had the first opportunity. In the 47th minute, Joel Veltman sent an outstanding pass to Van de Beek, who had freed himself up very well. The midfielder slipped and shot over the goal. But this was the only attempt. Just as they had in the first half, Ajax then retreated.
The Cypriots smelled blood and went on the attack. Within one minute, Ajax had two big scares. First,Veltman, after a save by Onana, was unable to keep the ball from the line, and on the ensuing corner, the ball flew onto the crossbar.
Three minutes later, there was a scrimmage in front of the Amsterdam goal. Al Tamari shot the ball into the side net. Later on, a feline save by Onana on a Lucas Zousa shot followed, and Ajax was still luckily at 0-0.
Ajax ends with 10 players
In the meantime, 5 Ajacieds had received a card and Mazraoui received his second one in the 80th minute. Ajax had to go on with 10 men.
In the last 10 minutes, Ziyech worked his way through APOEL’s defense and sent a pass to Huntelaar. The striker’s shot wasn’t convincing. The game thus ended in a scoreless tie.
Next Wednesday, the return match for the coveted Champions League spot takes place at 21:00.
Line-up Ajax: Onana; Mazraoui, Veltman, Martínez, Tagliafico; Blind, Marin (62. Dest), Van de Beek; Ziyech, Tadic, Neres (72. Huntelaar)