Sensation in the Johan Cruijff Arena: sensational team of the group stage and presumed favorite of their round of 16, Ajax was surprised by Benfica (0-1) on Tuesday. A result that, combined with the first leg tie (2-2), pushes the Lancers towards the exit. Frustrating, because they dominated the game. But actually logical, since they never knew how to materialize.
Ajax 0-1 Benfica
Goal: Nuñez (77and†
The cold shower. Three weeks after a breathless draw in Lisbon (2-2), Ajax dominated the return match with head and shoulders this Tuesday in Amsterdam. But Sébastien Haller’s partners didn’t realize their chances and were penalized in the last fifteen minutes, when Darwin Núñez scored the only goal of the game (0-1). Potential outsiders at the end of a devastating group stage, the Ajacides therefore get out of the 8to be of final. As for the Eagles, with admirable courage and unrelenting realism, they will be the surprise guests of the neighborhoods.
This first 8and of C1 three years at home, Ajax wants to attack it with a beating drum roll. From the start, the team from Amsterdam set foot on the ball and set up their tent on the other half of the field. The beginning of a long siege, animated by the raids of Noussair Mazraoui, the vision by Dušan Tadić and the projections of Steven Berghuis, who lights the first firecracker from the left at the entrance to the surface (26and† However, if they do not hesitate to try their luck (eight strikes in the first period), Erik ten Hag’s protégés are too imprecise to mislead Odysseas Vlachodimos, who is only obliged to apply his qualities to Antony (35and) and Ryan Gravenberch (36and† Cornered, the Eagles hold the shock boldly, but almost never get past the centerline. It doesn’t matter: when they reach the locker room, they’re still totally in the game.
Darwin makes his law
After the break, the Lancers continued their momentum. The game is one-sided yes, but the Dutch dominance remains hopelessly fruitless. Top scorer in the Champions League this season (eleven goals), Sébastien Haller is very discreet and struggles to get rid of Nicolás Otamendi, who makes up for his physical disadvantage with an unmistakable sense of vice. Ajax lacks accuracy, such as a header from Antony that revolves just above the crossbar (62and) and little by little seems to be slowing down. Packed and always quick to keep his, the Johan Cruijff Arena, tense during the minutes. Perhaps the ajacid public feels that doubt is creeping in, that the tide is turning. And he is right. On a corner kicked by Alejandro Grimaldo, Darwin Núñez beats André Onana’s exit – all strawberries on this shot – and sends, from the head, the leather into the back of the net (0-1.77and†† It’s the first shot at goal of the game for SLB, and it doesn’t take much to make a splash on the European stage. For the first time since 2016, the club from Lisbon is in the quarter-finals. The yet so talented band in Tadić, she only has her eyes to cry.
Ajax (4-3-3): Onana – Mazraoui, Wood (Kudus, 90and+6), Martinez, Blind – Alvarez (Brobbey, 82and), Berghuis (Klaassen, 82and), Gravenberch – Antony, Haller, Tadic. Coach: Erik ten Hag.
Benfica (4-3-3): Vlachodimos – Gilberto (Lazaro, 90and+2), Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo – Everton (Yaremchuk, 72and), Weigl, Taarabt (Meite, 46and) – Rafa Silva, Nuñez (Goncalves, 81and), Goncalo Ramos (Bernardo, 90and+1). Coach: Nelson Verissimo.
By Raphael Brosse