Tottenham Hotspur's hopes of reaching the Champions League final have been dented after they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Ajax at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the first leg of their semi-final tie.
After 15 minutes of dominating possession, Ajax took the lead as Donny van de Beek found himself unmarked in the penalty area to calmly slot the ball past Hugo Lloris. A serious head injury to Jan Vertonghen disrupted the remainder of the half, and clear-cut chances were certainly at a premium, but Ajax were comfortably the happier side heading into the break.
The second half, from a Spurs point of view, was much more like it, as Dele Alli and Fernando Llorente combined to create a handful of good opportunities to score. With the hosts pushing forward in search of an equaliser, David Neres found himself in space in Spurs' penalty area, but saw his effort cannon back off the post.
For all Spurs' energy, they could not force a way past the dominant Andre Onana, and they now have a huge mountain to climb in the second leg.
Check out our breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
With Harry Kane injured and Son Heung-min suspended, Spurs needed to come up with a 'Plan C'. Whatever they concocted to start the game, it certainly didn't work, and it actually took Vertonghen's nasty head injury to force Spurs to alter their approach to the game.
Danny Rose dropped back into defence, and Moussa Sissoko came on to provide some much-needed energy in midfield. The Frenchman was great, although all this performance did was highlight just how unreliable Spurs' reserve forwards are.
Should be out of sight. Destroyed Spurs first half. Vertonghan being forced off with a head injury has been the catalyst for Spurs to get back into it— Richy 🕺🏽 (@RJB__29) April 30, 2019
Spurs missing Son tonight. Look a totally different team without him & Kane— Bardo (@JB__16) April 30, 2019
Spurs are bang average without Kane and Son— Gerard P Reilly (@GerardReilly1) April 30, 2019
Spurs are simply not the same side without Kane. Their game plan goes from intricate build-up to speculative long balls towards Fernando Llorente, and Mauricio Pochettino's side are certainly not as dangerous with the Spaniard in attack.
Pochettino simply did not have the option to change his side in attack, and they paid the price. Fortunately, Son will be back for the next leg, and Spurs will need him to work his magic to save this tie.
STAR MAN - Moussa Sissoko
It was entirely feasible that Moussa Sissoko may not have even featured against Ajax, but Pochettino's hand was forced following the nasty injury to Vertonghen. Losing the Belgian was obviously a problem, although Sissoko's impact definitely softened the blow.
His introduction forced Spurs to change formation, and they then needed a player with Sissoko's energy and power to disrupt Ajax's dominance in midfield. That's exactly what he did, as the Frenchman gave his side the energy which they were sorely lacking in the first half.
Sissoko is having the season of his life never rated him even as a spurs supporter but it’s hard to argue the work he’s put in for us over this season quality attitude— jake carroll (@jakecarroll7) April 30, 2019
Spurs playing great since sissoko came on, coincidence? I think not— 😎 (@VanDijkRole) April 30, 2019
Sissoko is so big for Spurs now. Hard work is paying off 💪🏿— Mr NBT (@JoeNBT) April 30, 2019
He just did not have enough to drag Spurs to a leveller, but his influence was clear throughout. With him on the pitch, Ajax could not dominate the game, as he closed down Ajax's midfielders with undying energy, and was often the man to bring the ball forward once they had recovered possession. For Spurs, it is a shame that he was not there to do so from the start.
Key Talking Point
If there was anybody out there who felt as though Ajax did not deserve to be at this stage, those doubters will certainly have been silenced now.
In the first half, Erik ten Hag's side were utterly dominant. Keeping possession was easy, running forward was so simple and they showed just why they have been able to hold their own against Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid already this year.
How good are Ajax? Good enough to beat Real Madrid, Juventus and Spurs away in the Champions League. A breath of fresh air, they are blowing away the old order this season.— Ron Delnevo (@RonCashman) April 30, 2019
Ajax got far too much for spurs. Proper side.— Harry (@harrygbm) April 30, 2019
STAR MAN - Donny van de Beek
There are so many stars in this Ajax side, but the one who shined brightest at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was Donny van de Beek. The midfielder is given plenty of license to roam forward in Ten Hag's system, and that was abundantly clear.
It was from one of these bursts forward that Van de Beek netted the opener, showing his composure to send the ball past Lloris. After that, he was always seen powering down the right side of the field, and his late arrivals into the penalty area created plenty of problems for Spurs.
Donny van de Beek the unsung hero of Ajax in Europe this season. He has been excellent again tonight. Deserves much more credit and a shot in the Netherlands XI.— Michael Bell (@MichaelJBell09) April 30, 2019
The Dutchman is a real danger against any side, and he is yet another star who will inevitably be linked with a blockbuster transfer this summer.