Ajax could be just 90 minutes away from making the final of the Champions League after going to Tottenham and winning 1-0 on Tuesday in the first leg of their semifinal. The Dutch side took it to Spurs for much of the night with quick passing leaving the hosts hopeless, while Ajax’s pressure left Tottenham’s attack clueless.
It was much of the same style of play that has caught the attention of the soccer world with this inspired Ajax team showing off skill and matching it with confidence. This result puts Ajax on the verge of making the final, yet the team will rue the two clear chances missed to put the tie away.
In the end, Ajax did its job on the road and now returns home for next Wednesday’s second leg. Ajax has gone on the road in this competition in consecutive away matches to beat Real Madrid, Juventus and Tottenham. For Spurs, it’s back-to-back defeats at their new stadium and a big hill to climb. Tottenham lost 1-0 to West Ham in Premier League play last weekend.
Here’s what to know and see.
Ajax, as it has done in the knockout stage, got started quickly. From the opening whistle the team dominated the ball and made Tottenham look like it had no idea what it was doing. Spurs were without star striker Harry Kane (injury) and Son Heung-Min (suspended).
It only took just 15 minutes for the visitors to score, as Hakim Ziyech found Donny van de Beek inside the box, with the latter calmly finishing into the left side of the goal to lead 1-0:
There was a call from defenders and fans for offside, and it was reviewed by Video Assistant Referee, but the goal was confirmed. Here you can see that van de Beek was onside:
Ajax’s strong play continued as the three-time Champions League winners exposed the hosts down the flanks. A lovely bit of play 24 minutes in looked likely to end in a 2-0 lead, but it wasn’t meant to be. Van de Beek’s dummy froze the Spurs backline, but instead of squaring the ball to Neres for what probably was a sure goal, he put the ball on frame but was denied by Hugo Lloris:
Still, Ajax led 1-0 at the break after a fine first half.
Tottenham was much improved but still lacking creativity. Without the team’s two star attackers, it was always going to be a challenge. Lucas Moura had a couple bright moments but the only real danger felt like it came on set pieces.
Ajax kept playing its game and aimed to double the score, and it appeared set to arrive 78 minutes in when Neres slipped inside the left side of the box. But his effort pinged off the far post:
That was all she wrote, with Ajax getting a fantastic result in London.
⚽ Ajax – Donny van de Beek (15′)
It had to be the opening goal, because once again Ajax struck early, it set the tone and let anyone who doubted this team know that the club is for real. An away goal gives Ajax plenty of room in the second leg. Just a draw will be enough for Tottenham to move on.
Most telling stat
Spurs managed 12 shots, but only one went on frame in the entire game. But credit has to go to Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, who was strong in the air to punch balls out and commanded his defense. A fine performance in which he wasn’t asked to do too much when it came to making saves.
Player of the game
It’s van de Beek because of what the goal means. His dummy on the other chance in the first half was classy as well. He got caught higher than usual a couple times, but there’s no denying his impact.
Relive Ajax vs. Tottenham
If you are unable to view the live updates below, please click here.