10 April 2019
A first half strike by Cristiano Ronaldo and a goal immediately after the break by David Neres saw Ajax and Juventus play to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League at Johan Cruijff ArenA.
Juventus were boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the line-up but had to make do without the services of Giorgio Chiellini and Emre Can due to injury. Nonetheless, Massimiliano Allegri’s men made their intensions immediately clear when Bernardeschi fired a stunning ball towards goal, that sailed just high of Onana’s frame.
ZIYECH VS TEK
Ajax then started to dictate play, by using their pace and energy to put pressure on Juventus’ backline. Ziyech was the first to force a save from Szczesny, when he completed a triangular movement with Tadic before firing at goal, but the Polish shot-stopper held out strong.
The hosts then found themselves five against three, and they soon fired at goal through Ziyech. The Moroccan’s curling effort in the 17th minute was almost certainly going in, but he was brilliantly denied by “Tek”, who made an incredible one-handed save.
Just before the half hour mark Bentancur excellently won the ball from the midfield and ran 20 yards before sending the ball towards Bernardeschi inside the box. But before he could unleash an effort at goal, De Jong had made the interception and sent the ball for out for a corner. Ronaldo then got onto the end of the corner kick, by connecting to the ball with his shin, but nothing came of it.
STEP UP RONALDO!
Six minutes later, another chance fell to Bernadeschi, who was undoubtedly the biggest threat for Ajax in the first half. A cross was delivered into the box and it was knocked-down by Ronaldo towards the Tuscan attacker, whose effort went past the post.
Juventus finally broke the deadlock just before the break when Cancelo delivered in a pin-point cross into the box. Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in the Last 16, perfectly headered the ball into the back of the net! 0-1 to Juventus at half-time.
AJAX RESPOND AFTER HT
Despite trailing, the home fans were in full song with “Don’t worry, about a thing” and they seemed to inspire their side as they found themselves straight back in it straight after kick-off. A defensive error by Cancelo saw Neres make a run from the flank and curl in an effort into the top corner to level the scoreline. The Brazilian then had the ball in the back of the net just five minutes later, but it didn’t stand as he was well offside.
Allegri introduced Douglas Costa on the hour mark in place of Mandzukic, before then bringing on Dybala in place of the injured Matuidi 15 minutes later to go for an all-out attack. Douglas Costa then went on a brilliant run on the flank, cut in towards goal and crossed the ball towards goal, but Onana gathered with ease.
Szczesny then prevented Ajax from grabbing a late when he did well to make a diving save off Tadic’s play, following a series of brilliant attacking movements by the Lancieri. The final moment of dangerous play arrived when Douglas Costa came agonizingly close to grabbing the match-winner in the 85th minute for Juventus when he beat two defenders before turning the ball towards goal, only to see it rattle the upright.
The two teams will meet in Turin on Tuesday, 16 April, kick-off at 21:00 for the return leg.
Ajax XI: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Blind, Tagliafico; Van de Beek, De Jong, Schöne (Ekkelenkamp 75’); Ziyech, Tadic, Neres
Substitutes: Varela, Kristensen, Sinkgraven, Huntelaar, Magallan, Dolberg, Ekkelenkamp
Juventus XI: Szczesny; Cancelo, Rugani, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi (Dybala 74’); Bernardeschi (Khedira 90’), Mandzukic (Douglas Costa 60’), Ronaldo
Substitutes: Perin, De Sciglio, Spinazzola, Khedira, Dybala, Douglas Costa, Kean.