NEWS
Tuesday April 16 2019
CL: Ajax out-play and eliminate Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo was not enough this time, as Ajax comprehensively out-played Juventus for a 2-1 win to reach the Champions League semi-finals.

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The first leg ended 1-1, so was hanging in the balance, but both teams were forced into changes. Giorgio Chiellini was still injured, joined by Mario Mandzukic, Douglas Costa, Mattia Perin and Martin Caceres, so Paulo Dybala became centre-forward and captain, with Mattia De Sciglio rather than Joao Cancelo. Nicolas Tagliafico was suspended for the Dutch masters, replaced by Noussair Mazraoui returning from his ban, while Frenkie de Jong was able to start despite a hamstring problem.

Emre Can charged down the Andre Onana clearance and it ricocheted wide of the open goal, but Mazraoui – who was only playing on the left because of Tagliafico’s ban – turned his ankle badly and was replaced by Daley Sinkgraven.

Van de Beek prodded over under pressure from close range, while Dybala’s strike on the volley was plucked out of the air.

Juve broke through on a corner with Ronaldo’s header, although there was a VAR check for a push, but replays showed it was Matthijs de Ligt who had shoved his own teammate. This was Ronaldo’s ninth goal in the last six Champions League meetings with Ajax, not to mention his eighth consecutive quarter-final on target.

Ronaldo blasted over from a tight angle, but Ajax equalised both on the night and on aggregate when Hakim Ziyech’s wayward strike turned into an assist for Donny van de Beek to redirect in front of Wojciech Szczesny. The offside trap failed, as Federico Bernardeschi had been lagging back near the corner flag.

Cristiano Ronaldo blasted a free kick into the wall in first half stoppages and Dybala seemed to be limping. La Joya made way for Moise Kean, the 19-year-old on spectacular form for club and country.

Wojciech Szczesny needed a stunning save to deny Ziyech, as the shot was going into the near top corner when the goalkeeper stood his ground, stuck up a trailing arm and with one strong hand stopped the ball dead.

Szczesny was decisive again with a flying fingertip save to tip van de Beek’s curler out of the far top corner, while at the other end Kean drilled wide on a Ronaldo assist.

Ajax were stepping up the tempo and causing huge problems. Tadic was in acres of space and tried to roll across for a Ziyech tap-in, but Miralem Pjanic read it perfectly to intercept the decisive pass.

Ziyech then also tried to over-complicate things by pulling back for van de Beek when he could’ve gone for goal, again allowing a block.

However, Ajax took a deserved lead from a corner when Matthijs de Ligt out-jumped both Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani to nod in the Lasse Schone set play.

This also meant we could not have extra time and Juventus needed two goals to turn this around, as Ajax had the extra away goal.

Kean nodded a Joao Cancelo cross wide, but when Cancelo gave the ball away and Ziyech curled a right-foot stunner into the far top corner at the 80th minute, there was an offside in the build-up to disallow.

In the final minute, Juventus had penalty appeals for handball, but the referee did not even have an on-field review.

Juventus 1-2 Ajax (2-3 agg)

Ronaldo 28 (J), Van de Beek 34 (A), De Ligt 67 (A)

Juventus: Szczesny; De Sciglio (Cancelo 64), Bonucci, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi (Bentancur 80), Dybala (Kean 46), Ronaldo

Ajax: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Blind, Mazraoui (Sinkgraven 10) (Magallan 82); Schöne, Van de Beek, De Jong; Ziyech (Huntelaar 88), Tadic, Neres

Ref: Turpin (FRA)

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