Batshuayi Fires Chelsea To Late Ajax Win

Chelsea’s Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Ajax Amsterdam and Chelsea on October 23, 2019 at the Johan Cruijff Arena, in Amsterdam. John THYS / AFP

 

Chelsea showed that their young side were ready for the European stage on Wednesday after Michy Batshuayi’s late winner fired them to a 1-0 Champions League win at Ajax that puts them square in the fight for the knockout stages.

Substitute Batshuayi struck in the 86th minute to seal a hugely impressive win in Amsterdam that puts Chelsea level on six points with last year’s semi-finalists at the top of Group H.

Valencia will have the chance to draw alongside their group rivals with a win at Lille later on Wednesday.

“It’s feels huge, which always scares me because there’s a lot to do. We’re entitled to be excited about the way we played tonight,” Lampard told reporters.

“That’s the blueprint. No excuses from now to dip from that.”

Frank Lampard’s side had to ride their luck in the Johan Cruyff Arena, with Quincy Promes’ first half tap-in ruled out for the tightest of offsides and Edson Alvarez hitting the post with a diving header near the hour mark.

However, a youthful Chelsea showed they could compete with Europe’s top sides despite losing Eden Hazard in the summer, going toe-to-toe with one of the continent’s most dynamic attacking teams in a tight contest before winning their sixth straight match in all competitions.

They face Ajax at Stamford Bridge in the next round of games in a clash that on Wednesday’s evidence looks to be the key in deciding who tops the group.

“They’re still babies in terms of Champions League minutes… football will continue to give you tests all the time to I don’t want to say they’re there or ‘this is it’,” added Lampard.

“But I thought the balance of young players that are learning quickly and the experienced players who they rely on to set examples feels good.”

Stifled Ajax curse luck

In a match littered with sloppy passing in the final third, it was another substitute in Christian Pulisic who provided a moment of quality to slot a low cross across the area that Batshuyai got to first.

The Belgian’s finish squeezed in off the crossbar to send Chelsea’s players and fans wild and provide Ajax with their first defeat of a season that had seen them continue with the form that bewitched Europe last season.

Chelsea restricted Ajax’s talented attacking side, led by Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech, to just two shots on target, while academy graduates Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham initially led the charge at the other end.

Lampard spoke very highly of Hudson-Odoi on Tuesday and the winger was a threat on the left, even though the youngster was wasteful when he got the ball.

The 18-year-old gave the ball away in attacking positions a number of times in the first half and fired a very presentable chance wide in the 27th minute when a Marcos Alonso cross dropped to him in the area.

The only shot on target in the opening period came from Mount, who played a neat one-two with Hudson-Odoi before forcing Andre Onana into a smart save at his near post.

However it was Promes who came closest to opening the scoring when he pounced on Hakim Ziyech’s deflected shot to tap home, only to see the goal ruled out as he celebrated with his teammates and supporters.

The home fans could hardly believe their luck when Alvarez’s header bounced off the upright after the break, as Chelsea’s defence briefly wobbled before regaining composure and becoming the second team this season to shut out flamboyant Ajax.

Lampard sent on Pulisic and Batshuayi for Willian and Abraham and the move almost paid off immediately, the striker finding himself completely free in the box in the 73rd minute only to lash his finish way over the bar.

However he soon had his winner thanks to American Pulisic, himself just 21, who has been left out of the limelight this season but made an impact when he laid on his attacking partner for a huge winner.

Ten Hag Targets Champions League Triumph With Ajax

Ajax’ Dutch head-coach Erik ten Hag (R) reacts as he attends a training session, in Amsterdam, on October 22, 2019 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match between Ajax Amsterdam and Chelsea. John THYS / AFP

 

Erik ten Hag insisted on Tuesday that his Ajax side have put last season’s Champions League heartbreak behind them as they prepare to take their blistering early-season form into an intriguing clash with Chelsea’s young guns.

The Dutch champions had a place in last season’s final snatched away from them with seconds to go by Tottenham Hotspur and lost star players Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt in the summer but it hasn’t put a stop to their re-emergence as a European force.

Ajax lead Group H after winning both their opening Champions League matches 3-0, against Lille and Valencia. They now go into a double-header with Chelsea with hopes they can repeat last season’s thrilling run, which saw them dump out Real Madrid and Juventus before falling to Spurs in the last four.

“We have to forget that (last season) now because we live in the future. We live now. And now we have to perform,” Ten Hag told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s match at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Ten Hag’s side look to have brushed off last year’s disappointment, as they are unbeaten in all competitions and top of the Eredivisie averaging more than three goals a game.

“Last year was last year, we’re building a new team … we start the season very well and now we have to step up and become game-to-game better,” added Ten Hag.

Standing in his side’s way in the next two group games is a rapidly developing Chelsea team that is packed with home-grown talent and on a run of five straight wins in all competitions.

Frank Lampard has reinvigorated a Blues side that lost Eden Hazard in the summer with players like Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham, with Callum Hudson-Odoi back in the mix after a long-term ankle injury.

“When I see them they want to play football, they want to play in the opponents’ half, they want to press high and they want to stay in the opponents’ half. That’s pretty similar to Ajax,” said Ten Hag.

“I think they want to go as far as we did, but of course we want to avoid that.”

Abraham has starred with eight goals in nine league appearances and got the opener in Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Lille, and is set to start at one of the homes of youth development.

“He’s doing very well at the moment, he’s a good striker,” said Ajax defender Daley Blind, a former Manchester United player.

“I’ll prepare myself as I always do, you have to defend not just against a striker but a whole team, and we attack as a team and defend like a team.”

AFP

Champions League: Youthful Chelsea Face Ajax Test

Newcastle United’s Dutch defender Jetro Willems (L) vies with Chelsea’s Canadian-born English defender Fikayo Tomori (R) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Newcastle at Stamford Bridge in London on October 19, 2019.
Oliver GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Chelsea’s young guns will test their run of form at one of the homes of youth development on Wednesday as they attempt to stop an Ajax team on course to replicate last season’s thrilling Champions League run.

The Blues are on a five-match winning streak in all-competitions after beating Newcastle United 1-0 at the weekend but come up against the Group H leaders in Amsterdam

Ajax are averaging over three goals a game at home and abroad and are hungry for European success after semi-final heartache last season.

Fikayo Tomori, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all started Saturday’s win at Stamford Bridge, the first time since 2013 five English players made the London club’s starting XI.

They second on three points in Group H after a wobbly opening two games in the Champions League, with a pair of matches coming up against on-fire Ajax that could decide their European destiny.

“These two games against Ajax are really big because they’re such a strong team … The movement of the team and the way they play football will be a big test for us,” coach Frank Lampard told the Chelsea website on Monday.

Abraham has stolen the headlines with eight goals in nine league appearances and the opener in Chelsea’s 2-1 win in Lille, and Lampard called the 22-year-old a “sponge” for his capacity to learn.

“He wants to listen, to get better, to score more goals, improve his game and help his team-mates. He’s got the beautiful base of that in terms of coaching,” added Lampard.

However four of those Saturday starters are academy products who have flourished under new boss Lampard, who has dealt with the loss of Eden Hazard and a UEFA-imposed transfer ban by pushing the Premier League club’s youth products to centre stage.

Hudson-Odoi, who recently returned from a long-term ankle injury, was a constant menace with his bursts down the flank and it was the 18-year-old who teed up Marcos Alonso for the winning goal from a match in which Chelsea had 16 shots at goal and 72 per cent possession.

Ajax gunning for glory

It was also just the second time this season that Chelsea kept a clean sheet, and they did it without the injured Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, with 21-year-old Tomori proving an increasingly solid presence at the back.

Rudiger and Christensen are two of a string of Chelsea absentees which includes midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante and another academy product Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with Barkley and Cesar Azpilicueta also doubts for Ajax.

Ajax’s remarkable form has led to rumours that coach Erik ten Hag is a potential Bayern Munich target, rumours that the 49-year-old refused to play down on Monday as Nico Kovac comes under fire in Germany.

Despite losing midfield dynamo Frenkie De Jong to Barcelona and defensive rock Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus, they are top of the Eredivisie and unbeaten after scoring 31 times in their opening 10 games, three points ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse Arnhem.

In fact Erik ten Hag’s side have hardly felt the effects of their departures, as the rising stars of Dutch football struggle to impose themselves in new countries.

They are also top of Group H after beating both Lille and Valencia 3-0 with the same brand of thrilling football that captured Europe’s imaginations last season.

However, although they reemerged as a European force thanks to their academy talent, their star turns this campaign are all outside discoveries, with Hakim Ziyech, David Neres and Dusan Tadic all in fine form and new signing Quincy Promes causing havoc from midfield.

The 26-year-old Ziyech’s incredible strike sent Ajax on their way at the Mestalla in their last Champions League match, while Promes, 27, scored in both Group matches and six times in the league.

Even 36-year-old Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is on fire, with five league goals in as many appearances, as they hunt their first European trophy in 25 years.

 

AFP

Police Arrest 100 Lille Fans Ahead Of Ajax Champions League Match

Lille’s French coach Christophe Galtier speaks during a press conference on September 16, 2019 at Johan Cruyff Arena, in Amsterdam on the eve of their UEFA Champions league football match Ajax FC vs Losc. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Dutch police arrested at least 100 unruly Lille fans on Tuesday, ahead of the French club’s Champions League game against Ajax, for “disturbing the public order,” police said.

The supporters were arrested at a station close to the Johan Cruyff Arena hours ahead of the Group H match.

“Around 100 Lille supporters have been arrested in connection with disturbing the public order, setting off fireworks and violence,” Amsterdam police said in a tweet.

Supporters were also walking along the metro lines, forcing officials to halt rail traffic and evacuate two stations for a short while, the ANP national news agency reported.

Kickoff for the match is at 21.00 (1900 GMT).

AFP

How Kanu Stole The Show After Super Eagles Beat Bafana Bafana

 

Former captain of the Super Eagles, Nwankwo Kanu could not hold back from making a show of his joy over the victory of Nigeria in the quarterfinal game against South Africa. 

Just immediately after the referee blew the whistle, the former Arsenal and Inter Milan forward came down from the stands to show his support for the Super Eagles who defeated the Bafana Bafana by two goals to one.

In a short clip which Kanu shared on his official @papilokanu twitter page, the former Ajax striker could be seen cheering supporters at the Cairo International Stadium, with the fans chanting ‘Papilo! Papilo!!’.

READ ALSO: Two More Victories And We Are There, Buhari Tells Super Eagles

Below is the now viral video in which Kanu stole the show from the Super Eagles game on Wednesday.

Other Nigerian fans in Cairo were not left out of the show as some took to the streets singing and dancing in jubilation. On leaving the stadium, the Super Eagles were given a warm goodbye for their heroic performance, below is what it looked like.

Tottenham Beat Ajax 3-2 To Set Up All English Champions League Finals

Tottenham’s Brazilian forward Lucas (C) celebrates with teammate Tottenham’s Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen (L) after scoring a goal, as Ajax players react (R) during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur at the Johan Cruyff Arena, in Amsterdam, on May 8, 2019.

Lucas Moura scored a dramatic 96th-minute winner to cap a brilliant hat-trick as Tottenham fought back from three goals down on aggregate to stun Ajax 3-2 on Wednesday and set up a Champions League final against Liverpool.

After a 1-0 victory in London last week, Ajax appeared in total control after first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.

READ ALSO: Chelsea To Challenge FIFA’s Transfer Ban At CAS

But Moura scored twice in four second-half minutes before the Brazilian sent Spurs into only the second ever all-English final, against Liverpool in Madrid on June 1, on away goals with his last-gasp effort.

AFP

Champions League: Ajax Beat Tottenham In London

Ajax’s Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek (C) runs to celebrate with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London, on April 30, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Ajax closed in on a first Champions League final for 23 years as Donny van de Beek’s early goal beat an injury-hit Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday.

Van de Beek’s opener on 15 minutes was just rewarded for the Dutch side’s first-half dominance as Tottenham badly missed the presence of the injured Harry Kane and suspended Son Heung-min.

Tottenham improved after the break despite another injury blow as Jan Vertonghen had to be helped down the tunnel after a sickening head knock, but lacked the inspiration needed to get back on level terms without their two top scorers.

And Ajax could easily have had an even greater lead to take back to the Johan Cruyff Arena for the second leg next week when David Neres hit the post 10 minutes from time.

Ajax had shown they are not fazed on the road despite the tender age of many of their squad by shocking Real Madrid and Juventus away to reach the last four and started confidently.

Spurs were happy to sit deep and wait for their chances to counter-attack, but that gameplan was undone when Hakim Ziyech’s through ball picked out midfielder Van de Beek who took his time to leave Hugo Lloris prone before slotting into the bottom corner.

Lloris kept his side in the game 10 minutes later from another Van de Beek effort as Ajax threatened to run riot.

Fernando Llorente was the hero with the decisive goal as Mauricio Pochettino’s men upset the odds to end Manchester City’s quest for a quadruple of trophies in the quarter-finals.

However, the cumbersome Spaniard struggled to provide the out ball his side needed to relieve the Ajax pressure.

Set-pieces provided Tottenham’s best chance of scoring before the break as Llorente headed wide and Toby Alderweireld over from Kieran Trippier free-kicks.

 Spurs miss Kane and Son 

On top of Kane and Son, Spurs were shorn of the injured Erik Lamela and Harry Winks and lost another key player when Vertonghen came off worst as he contested a high ball with Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.

The Belgian was patched up and briefly returned to the field before having to be helped down the tunnel with questions sure to be asked why the Spurs medical staff allowed him to continue.

Despite that latest blow, the hosts reacted well to end the half on top with Vertonghen’s replacement Moussa Sissoko driving a long-range effort wide.

Pochettino’s half-time pep talk had the desired effect as Spurs dug deep into their energy reserves to raise the tempo and intensity of their display after the break.

Yet, the quality needed in the final third to get back on level terms was missing without Kane and Son.

A sweetly struck shot Christian Eriksen shot that was too close to Onana was the best effort they could muster as too often hopeful crosses into the box failed to find a teammate.

Ajax did not make the most of their chances on the break to kill the tie off, but were unfortunate when Neres’s effort back across Lloris left the French captain helpless only for the ball to rebound kindly off the post.

Son will be back for the trip to Amsterdam next Wednesday and Spurs will hope the South Korean can repeat his double away to City in the last eight, but Ajax are in pole position for a final against Barcelona or Liverpool come June 1 in Madrid.

AFP

 

Spurs Missing Sissoko, Son And Kane For Ajax Semi-Final

Tottenham Hotspur’s South Korean striker Son Heung-Min (C) and Tottenham Hotspur’s English defender Danny Rose attend a team training session at Tottenham Hotspur’s Enfield Training Centre, north London, on April 29, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko was only fit enough to return to the bench for the first leg of Spurs’ first Champions League semi-final since 1962 at home to Ajax on Tuesday.

Mauricio Pochettino is already without the injured Harry Kane, Erik Lamela and Harry Winks, while Son Heung-min is suspended.

However, the Argentine has insisted Spurs must grab the opportunity of a lifetime despite the draining effects of a long season on a short squad.

Pochettino’s back three of Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen all face their old side as does midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Without Kane and Son, Fernando Llorente leads the line with the support of Lucas Moura.

Ajax, by contrast, arrive in London injury free and have had a week to prepare after the entire Eredivisie calendar for last weekend was postponed to give them extra time to prepare.

Erik ten Hag makes just one change from the side that beat Juventus 2-1 in Turin to reach the last four for the first time since 1997 as Nicolas Tagliafico returns from suspension at left-back.

Tottenham (3-5-2)

Hugo Lloris (capt); Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez, Danny Rose; Victor Wanyama, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli; Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente

Coach: Mauricio Pochettino (ARG)

Ajax (4-2-3-1)

Andre Onana; Joel Veltman, Matthijs de Ligt (capt), Daley Blind, Nicolas Tagliafico; Lasse Schoene, Frenkie de Jong; Hakim Ziyech, Donny van de Beek, David Neres; Dusan Tadic

Coach: Erik Ten Hag

Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)

AFP

Tottenham Vs Ajax Champions League Starting Line-Ups

Tottenham players warm up ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London, on April 30, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

(kick-off 1900 GMT):

Tottenham (3-5-2)

Hugo Lloris (capt); Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez, Danny Rose; Victor Wanyama, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli; Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente

Coach: Mauricio Pochettino (ARG)

Ajax (4-2-3-1)

Andre Onana; Joel Veltman, Matthijs de Ligt (capt), Daley Blind, Nicolas Tagliafico; Lasse Schoene, Frenkie de Jong; Hakim Ziyech, Donny van de Beek, David Neres; Dusan Tadic

Coach: Erik Ten Hag

Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)

AFP

Sissoko, Major Doubt For Spurs Ahead Ajax Opener

Tottenham Hotspur’s French midfielder Moussa Sissoko attends a training session at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England on April 16, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match against Manchester City.
Lindsey PARNABY / AFP

 

Tottenham Hotspur suffered a fresh blow to their Champions League hopes on Monday when Moussa Sissoko appeared to be ruled out of the first leg of their semi-final against Ajax.

The midfielder, one of Tottenham’s outstanding players this season, suffered a groin injury in the return leg of the quarter-final tie at Manchester City and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino believes he will not be fit for another two weeks.

That would rule Sissoko out of the north London club’s home leg against Dutch giants Ajax on April 30, with Tottenham already missing South Korea star Son Heung-min through suspension.

READ ALSO: Djokovic Consolidates Lead As World Number One

Son has been a key man for Spurs while England captain Harry Kane has been sidelined with an ankle injury.

“Moussa Sissoko is not going to be fit, maybe for the next two weeks, we hope he can recover before but I am not so optimistic,” Pochettino said ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League match at home to Brighton.

“Harry Winks we don’t know because it is a problem that is one day very good, next day not very good, it is about assessing each day.

“We hope he will be available for Tuesday but we are not sure.”

There are also doubts over the fitness of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, with Pochettino saying: “Lloris I hope yes, we are going to assess, we have a training session and we hope it is not a big issue, we hope he is going to be available.”

‘Thinking In The Today’

Tottenham may have lost to Manchester City in their second game at the Etihad inside 72 hours but they remain firmly in the hunt for a top-four finish in the Premier League after both Arsenal and Manchester United lost as well at the weekend.

If Spurs beat Brighton and West Ham in back-to-back games at their new ground they will be on course for a top-four finish that would qualify them for next season’s Champions League regardless of whether they win this season’s edition of European club football’s elite competition.

“We are not thinking of Ajax,” Pochettino said. “We showed at Manchester City that we are thinking in the today and that competition, the Premier League.”

The Argentinian added: “Now our energy is in Brighton. It is so clear that we have two objectives — one is to be in the top four at the end of the season and the other is to beat Ajax, but we need to go step-by-step.

“The players, they know it, I think the behaviour and the mentality are perfect.”

Despite concerns a mid-season move to a new ground may prove unsettling, Pochettino’s men have won all their three matches so far at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, scoring seven goals and not conceding any in the process.

“We hope we can keep going, getting the same result,” said Pochettino.

“It is going to be fantastic and it is going to be helpful for us playing in the new stadium with our fans and we hope and wish to repeat the performances of the previous results.”

AFP

Ajax Stun Juventus To Reach Champions League Semis

Ajax Stun Juventus To Reach Champions League Semis
Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Ajax’s Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt (R) go for a header during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match on April 16, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Ajax stunned Juventus to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1997 as Matthijs de Ligt’s thumping second-half header secured a 2-1 second-leg victory in the last eight in Turin on Tuesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo, bidding for his sixth Champions League title, scored a 28th-minute header to put Juve ahead after a 1-1 first-leg draw, but Donny van de Beek levelled for Ajax before half-time.

Teenage centre-back De Ligt struck midway through the second period, though, to seal a 3-2 aggregate win and set up a last-four clash with either Manchester City or Tottenham.

READ ALSOBarcelona Thrash Manchester United, Reach Champions League Semis

The young Dutch side had already eliminated three-time defending champions Real Madrid en route to the quarters, overturning a 2-1 home defeat against the Spanish side with a memorable 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Juventus had been looking to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the third time in the past five seasons.

But Ronaldo, who scored an away goal last week with a diving header in Amsterdam, was Juve’s only weapon against the impressive Dutch side.

The 34-year-old was signed for 100 million euros ($117 million) last summer from Real Madrid in a bid to win the European trophy for the first time since 1996, when they beat Ajax in the final.

Massimiliano Allegri had been forced to reshuffle his side because of injuries, with Paulo Dybala returning in place of the injured Mario Mandzukic, while captain Giorgio Chiellini was also sidelined.

Ajax’s defence took a hit when Noussair Mazraoui, who had replaced the suspended Nicolas Tagliafico, limped off on 11 minutes with an ankle injury, with Daley Sinkgraven coming on.

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana dived to keep out a scorching Dybala half-volley in the 20th minute.

– Ronaldo leaves Onana no chance –

But Ronaldo latched onto a Miralem Pjanic corner with a downward header that left Onana without no chance.

It was the Portugal star’s 126th Champions League goal and sixth of this campaign, having now scored in his past six European games against Ajax, netting nine goals in total.

But Van de Beek soon silenced the cheers of the home crowd when he controlled a wayward Hakim Ziyech shot six minutes later, rolling the ball past Szczesny to cancel out Juventus’ away goal and make it 2-2 on aggregate.

Teenage striker Moise Kean replaced Dybala after the break, but it was the Dutch who turned on the style, with only Szczesny’s reflexes keeping Juventus in the tie.

The Polish keeper denied Ziyech from close range with one hand, and minutes later tipped Van de Beek’s curling effort over the bar.

The Juventus back-line struggled with the pace of the Dutch team with Pjanic doing well to deny Ziyech a tap-in.

But Erik ten Hag’s side’s incessant pressure paid off with 19-year-old skipper De Ligt towering above Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani to head home Lasse Schone’s corner on 67 minutes.

Ziyech looked as if he had fired a third past Szczesny, but his goal was ruled offside after a VAR check.

And the Dutch visitors held on, with Ronaldo unable to make a difference after his incredible hat-trick had pulled Juventus into the quarter-finals in the last-16 win over Atletico Madrid.

Four-time winners Ajax won their third consecutive title in 1973 at the expense of Juventus, and last lifted the trophy in 1995, with their last semi-final appearances ending in defeat by Juve 22 years ago.


Champions League semi-final match-ups:

Tottenham (ENG)/Manchester City (ENG) v Ajax (NED)

Barcelona (ESP) v Liverpool (ENG)/Porto (POR)

— First legs to be played April 30/May 1, second legs May 7-8

— Final on June 1 at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid

AFP

Ajax Draw Juve In First Leg Of Champions League Quarter-Final

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Ajax’s Dutch midfielder Jurgen Ekkelenkamp jump for the ball during the UEFA Champions League first leg quarter-final football match between Ajax Amsterdam and Juventus FC at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam on April 10, 2019. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

 

Ajax and Juventus draw 1-1 in the first leg of Champions League quarter-final.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s flying header on the stroke of half-time gives Juventus a slight edge over Ajax after Wednesday’s breathless first-leg draw in Amsterdam.

Ronaldo subdued the 50,000 home fans in the Johan Cruyff Arena when he headed Juventus in front on the stroke of half-time to take his record goal tally in the competition to 125.

Brazilian winger David Neres conjured a stunning equaliser almost immediately after half-time to give Ajax a draw that was the very least they deserved.

READ ALSO: Barca Beat United In First Leg Of Champions League Quarter-Final

However, it is Juventus — for whom substitute Douglas Costa struck a post late on — who hold the upper hand heading into next Tuesday’s return in Turin, with the winners of this tie facing Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur in the last four.

Ronaldo was back for his first appearance since suffering a thigh injury playing for Portugal last month — it was his first game for Juventus since netting the hat-trick that dumped out Atletico Madrid in the last 16.

The 34-year-old is aiming to win the trophy for the fourth year running, while Ajax are appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time since 2003.

They had set up this tie by ending Real Madrid’s European hegemony in the previous round after a thrilling 4-1 victory in Spain.

Erik ten Hag’s brilliant young side is likely to be broken up at the end of this campaign, so this may be the Amsterdam club’s best chance in a long time to win a fifth European Cup.

 De Jong runs the show 

Frenkie de Jong is leaving for Barcelona, and the 21-year-old’s eagerness to get on the ball and start moves here underlined why the Catalans were prepared to pay an initial 75 million euros ($84.5 million) in January to secure his signature.

However, it was the Moroccan international, Hakim Ziyech, who was the most prominent going forward in the first half — one curling effort in the 18th minute was heading for the top corner before being tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny.

Ajax certainly should have scored in the 25th minute when Dusan Tadic set up Donny van de Beek inside the box, but his shot went agonisingly wide.

Juventus only displayed their attacking threat in patches, with Federico Bernardeschi lively and Ronaldo hooking one chance wide.

The latter had been kept largely quiet, but he was afforded too much time and space by the Ajax defence as he opened the scoring with the last act of the first half.

Ronaldo collected a pass from the elegant Rodrigo Bentancur, spread the play to Joao Cancelo and then ran unhindered in a straight line into the box to head home his compatriot’s perfectly flighted cross.

Andre Onana got a touch, but could not deny Ronaldo his 25th of the season — he has now scored six Champions League goals at the Johan Cruyff Arena, as many as ex-Ajax star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Ajax fans greeted their team’s return for the second half with a rendition of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, and they were still belting out the words to their adopted hymn when they equalised within a minute of the restart.

Neres robbed Cancelo by the left touchline just inside the Juventus half and advanced before curling a shot beyond Szczesny and into the far corner.

However, despite exerted pressure after that, Ajax could not get a winner, and Costa nearly delivered a late sucker punch when he struck the woodwork.

Having come back from losing 2-1 at home to Madrid in the first leg of the last 16, Ajax will head to Turin full of hope, although left-back Nicolas Tagliafico will be suspended for the return after being booked here.

AFP