Ajax's dream journey in the Champions League continues as it defeated Juventus at Alianz Stadium and returned to the semifinal stage for the first time in 22 years.
Ajax's dream journey in the Champions League continues, as the Dutch side defeated Juventus at the Alianz Stadium in Turin 2-1 (3-2 on aggregate) to return to the semifinal stage for the first time in 22 years.
Goals from Donny van de Beek and 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt allowed Ajax to overcome Cristiano Ronaldo's opener, making for another incredible night for the club.
The home side began with aggression, pressing Ajax high up the pitch through its frontline and midfield and hoping it would disrupt the Dutch side's rhythm. It was a physical first few minutes, as Ajax defender Noussair Mazraoui was forced to come off in the 10th minute to due a collision with Paulo Dybala. He was replaced by Daley Sinkgraven.
Moments later, Alex Sandro was fouled by Lasse Schone, which could have been a yellow but this early in the game, the referee stayed lenient. Most of the action was coming from the left wing as Ronaldo looked to penetrate the box, but Ajax stayed strong early on.
David Neres, who was Ajax's goal-scoring hero in last week's first leg, was quiet until the 20th minute, when he entered the box and nearly made it 1-0 on the night but failed to connect properly against Juve's goal.
But in the 27th minute, Ronaldo made Ajax pay once again, as his header from a well-designed corner made it 1-0 to Juventus (2-1 on aggregate).
Ajax refused to go down without a fight, and in the 34th minute, after pushing in the final third, Van de Beek made it 1-1 after VAR helped the referee confirm that he was indeed onside after initial doubt.
After Ronaldo's free kick was blocked by Ajax's wall, the players welcomed the end of the first half, as both sides had gone through an extremely physical 45 minutes (plus five of stoppage time), surprisingly with no bookings.
Moise Kean replaced Dybala in the second half, as the Argentina star seemed to have taken a knock earlier in the game. His introduction was met with huge applause at Allianz Stadium. Ajax, though, was pushing and in the 51st minute, Hakim Ziyech had a glorious chance to take the lead but a wonderful one-handed stop from Wojciech Szczesny was enought to prevent the goal.
On the other end, Ronaldo also had an opportunity, but his header from a corner could not connect. Moments later, Szczesny came to the rescue, and this time it was an unbelievable save from Van de Beek's curling effort. By the hour mark, it was Ajax that looked more dangerous.
Kean was trying to keep the home fans energenized and had a great chance to score after Ronaldo's through ball, but his shot went wide. Moments later, Miralem Pjanic saved the day for Juve, as his clearance from a cross inside the box kept it even. It was a tremendous defensive effort from the midfielder.
Ajax continued to knock, though, and De Ligt was rewarded for the effort, with his header off the corner kick putting Ajax in the lead in the 67th minute. Given that it gave Ajax the away-goal edge, it meant that Juventus needed two goals in the final 23 minutes to advance.
Ajax wasn't done, though, and Neres once again could have sealed it from inside the box, but his finish went wide of Szczesny's goal.
In the 79th minute, it seemed as if Ziyech finished off the hosts, but his goal was disallowed for an offside call after the referee confirmed with VAR.
In the 89th minute, Juventus pleaded for a penalty after the ball hit Daley Blind's arm but once again, VAR came into action and denied it. Frustrations overflowed for the home side and Ronaldo, as he was booked in stoppage time, a final act on the Champions League stage that he will no longer get to command after winning the last three with Real Madrid.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Ajax advances to face either Manchester City or Tottenham in the semifinals. Tottenham carries a 1-0 lead into their second leg at the Etihad on Wednesday.