AAP Soccer

Outstanding Ajax end Juve’s ECL challenge

By AAP Newswire

Ajax have followed up their Champions League elimination of Real Madrid by producing a spell-binding display of inventive, passing football to win 2-1 at Juventus and advance to the semi-finals.

Ajax's 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt headed the winner from the corner in the 67th minute of the quarter-final second leg as the Dutch side came from behind to clinch a 3-2 aggregate win and reach the last four for the first time since 1996-97.

Cristiano Ronaldo, aiming for a fourth successive Champions League title after winning the last three with Real Madrid, put Juventus ahead in the 28th minute with a typically emphatic header, his sixth goal of the competition.

But Donny van de Beek levelled six minutes later before the visitors swept Juventus aside in the second half with wave after wave of attacks as they earned a showdown against Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur.

"Can we can go on to win the competition? Well, we are in the semi-finals now and we have eliminated two of the favourites in the last two rounds," de Ligt said.

"The next games will be very difficult, but so were these ones. So, who knows?"

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana gave his team an early scare when his clearance was charged down by Emre Can but the rebound flew wide.

Juventus went ahead when Ronaldo got away from his marker to score the 126th Champions League goal of his career.

There was a long delay for the VAR review before the goal was confirmed.

Ajax kept their cool and took six minutes to level, helped by a somewhat lucky break.

Hakim Ziyech's long-range shot hit a defender and fell perfectly for Van de Beek who, unmarked and onside, slotted the ball calmly past Wojciech Szczesny - and then had to wait for another long VAR check before the goal was confirmed.

Ajax took complete control in the second half and their geometric passing repeatedly opened up the Juventus defence, which sorely missed injured veteran Giorgio Chiellini.

"We dominated after the break and were well worth our victory. In fact, we probably should have won by more," Frenkie de Jong said.

Juventus were rocking but, ironically, Ajax's winner came from an old-fashioned header as De Ligt outjumped two defenders to score from a corner.

The Dutch had a third from Ziyech disallowed by VAR for offside before Ronaldo - who will not feature in the semis for the first time in nine years - was booked in stoppage time for a lunging tackle from behind near the centre circle.