Wednesday April 10 2019
CL: Cancelo hero and villain in Amsterdam

Joao Cancelo created the Cristiano Ronaldo opener, but also gifted David Neres the equaliser as Juventus were held 1-1 by Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

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The Bianconeri missed Giorgio Chiellini and Emre Can, while Andrea Barzagli wasn’t even on the bench, so Daniele Rugani had to step in. Cristiano Ronaldo made his comeback from three weeks out with a thigh injury sustained playing for Portugal. Ajax knocked holders Real Madrid out in the last round and held Bayern Munich to two draws in the group stage. Frenkie de Jong passed a fitness test, but Hassane Bande was out and Noussair Mazraoui suspended.

Federico Bernardeschi seemed to be in more of a trequartista role than originally predicted and within a few minutes he’d blasted just over the bar.

However, Ajax started their traditional high press and swarmed into the penalty area, Hakim Ziyech’s curler forcing Wojciech Szczesny to acrobatically fingertip out from under the bar.

Donny van de Beek almost completed a trademark team move, his left-foot strike from 13 yards skimming the far post.

Juve went on a rapid counter-attack with Rodrigo Bentancur, but De Jong made a last-ditch tackle on Bernardeschi. On the resulting corner, Ronaldo volleyed wide.

Ronaldo knocked down a cross for Bernardeschi, who on the turn fired inches past the post from seven yards. Nicolas Tagliafico was booked for a lunge on Joao Cancelo and will be suspended for the second leg.

With the last kick of the first half, Juventus took the lead. Ronaldo completed a long give and go with Cancelo, got away from defenders, bending back goalkeeper Andre Onana’s hand with a diving header from eight yards. It was his eighth career goal past Ajax, having already scored a hat-trick in this stadium for Real Madrid.

However, within 40 seconds of the restart, Ajax had equalised and Cancelo had gone from hero to villain. He kept a goal kick in play at the touchline when he could so easily have let it go out for a throw-in, David Neres made the most of it, surged forward and curled a ferocious right-foot strike into the far top corner.

Tagliafico blasted just wide of the near post and Neres had the ball in the net, but only after being flagged a long way offside.

There was controversy on 52 minutes, as Bernardeschi’s free kick flashed across the face of goal with Bentancur’s shoulder tugged back, but the VAR booth waved play on.

Douglas Costa made his comeback with the first appearance since February 2, replacing the barely-present Mario Mandzukic.

Alex Sandro flung himself in the path of a Ziyech strike from the edge of the box and the hosts again had a period of extremely intensive pressure, pinning Juve back.

Blaise Matuidi limped off with a muscular problem, replaced by Paulo Dybala, but Ajax substitute Jurgen Ekkelenkamp stung Szczesny’s gloves after a smart Dusan Tadic back-heel flick.

Douglas Costa almost restored the Juventus advantage on 86 minutes, as he shrugged off challenges from Veltman and Ziyech, turned on the turbo and saw his angled drive bounce off the inside of the far post.

Cancelo almost scored with a cross-shot trivela that Onana palmed out of the far bottom corner, then the goalkeeper smothered another low Cancelo ball for Ronaldo.

Ajax surged forward in a mass counter-attack in stoppages, but Dusan Tadic’s effort was deflected wide off Rugani.

Ajax 1-1 Juventus

Ronaldo 45 (J), Neres 46 (A)

Ajax: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Blind, Tagliafico; Van de Beek, De Jong, Schöne (Ekkelenberg 75); Ziyech, Tadic, Neres

Juventus: Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi (Dybala 75); Bernardeschi (Khedira 93), Mandzukic (Douglas Costa 60), Cristiano Ronaldo

Ref: Del Cerro Grande (ESP)


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