Champions League: Dutch Masters Show Juve the Way

Juventus 1-2 (2-3 on agg.) Ajax

A Champions League clash of real pedigree, the Old Lady against youthful Dutch courage was always likely to provide a contrast of styles and approach.

And so it proved.

What followed in Turin was a quite compelling evening for fans of both sides and us followers alike.

But there could only be one winner.

That winner was Ajax. The sole side which reached the knockout round after coming through qualifying has produced yet more Champions League 2019 highlights and are in the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition for the first time in 22 years.

Meanwhile, it’s more misery for Juventus who have lost a record seven European Cup finals, including all of their last five.

Highlights of the game

Ajax suffered an early blow when Noussair Mazraoui sustained a nasty-looking ankle injury and had to come off despite his heroic efforts to continue.

The Dutch side continued their pressing game and Donny van de Beek prodded over from close range under pressure. The play then went up the other end and Paulo Dybala’s powerful half-volley was saved by Andre Onana.

The deadlock was broken after 28 minutes, and Champions League 2019 betting odds everywhere on the planet would have had CR7 as the likely scorer.

From a Miralem Pjanic corner, Cristiano Ronaldo powered a header into the bottom right corner. He made it look easy.

The 34-year-old Portuguese international relishes playing in the Champions League knockout rounds. He has now notched 21 goals in his last 16 appearances in the competition’s latter stages, with an impressive 65 of his total of 126 strikes coming after the group phase.

That advantage lasted only six minutes, however, as van de Beek turned a wayward shot from Hakim Ziyech beyond Wojciech Szczesny.

Dybala failed to reappear for the second half after picking up an injury and was replaced by exciting young talent Moise Kean.

There were naturally some nerves among the home faithful. After a back heel from Serbian international Dusan Tadic – who has netted an impressive 32 goals in all competitions this term, including six in the Champions League (only bettered by Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski) – Lasse Schone’s strike was deflected wide.

Szczesny then produced two top-drawer saves to deny Ziyech and van de Beek as Ajax chased a second away goal.

When Pjanic superbly blocked what would have been a certain Tadic goal, Juve were on the ropes.

Finally, the Dutch club got the goal they deserved when another of their exciting crop of youngsters, teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt, outjumped two defenders to head the visitors in front from a Schone delivery.

Ajax end Cristiano Ronaldo's hopes of a fourth straight Champions League title

Juventus players looking dejected following their 1-2 loss against Ajax at the Allianz stadium

Suddenly, Juventus needed two goals in little over 20 minutes. But it was Ajax who were closest to another — only an offside flag ruling out a Ziyech curler.

Juventus’ night was summed up in stoppage time when they appealed for a penalty for a handball against Daley Blind and VAR correctly said no.

Could it have been different had Mario Mandzukic and Giorgio Chiellini been available? Possibly, but Ajax’s triumph was fully deserved and most of Europe will applaud their progress.

These are exciting times in the Dutch capital for this enterprising and energetic young side.

Key statistics

Ajax last made it to the Champions League final four in 1997 when their campaign was ended by Juve – the team which had also beaten them in the previous season’s final.

Fabrizio Ravanelli gave Juventus an early lead in that final, but Jari Litmanen levelled before the break for holders Ajax. Juve were 4-2 winners on penalties.

Before tonight, Ajax had won only two of their 13 European fixtures against Juventus (one was the 1973 final) and none since 1974.

Juventus had also been unbeaten in their last ten games against the Dutch club, winning five of the last seven.

Ronaldo has scored in each of his last seven Champions League quarter-final matches played (13 goals).

Szczesny also made his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition.

1X2 Draw @ 5.20 Manchester City Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 1.94 Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.10 Third Line text CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.UEFA – Champions League

What’s next?

Juventus have the opportunity to clinch an eighth successive Serie A title when they meet Fiorentina on Easter Saturday. They then travel to Inter Milan for the Derby d’Italia a week later.

Ajax visit Groningen on Saturday with the race for the Eredivisie thrillingly poised. They then host Vitesse Arnhem in Amsterdam three days later followed by a trip to De Graafschap before the Champions League semi-finals, where Spurs or Manchester City await.

Between that tie, they will also meet Willem II in the Dutch Cup final on May 5.

 

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