6

Ajax add substance to style vs. Juventus to raise hopes of UCL upset

Johan Cruyff famously once remarked: “Italians can’t beat us, but we can certainly lose against them.” It summed up the clash of footballing cultures at the time. His Ajax and Barcelona teams could outplay their Serie A counterparts but give up one chance, allow one counter, make one mistake and expect to be punished.

Cruyff’s words rang as true Wednesday night as they did back then. Ajax dominated the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Juventus. They deserved to win but yet, their streetwise and vastly experienced Italian opponents fly back home with a draw and an away goal from their only shot on target. The advantage is now with the Old Lady and history stands by her side. On the seven occasions Juventus have drawn the first leg away from home 1-1, they have progressed six times including against Ajax in 1978.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

That said, Ajax must draw strength from this encounter. A team that has scored 100 goals in the Eredivisie, 44 on the road, will back themselves to score at the Allianz Stadium even with Juventus’ captain and best defender Giorgio Chiellini expected to return for the seven-time defending Italian champions.6

On the eve of Wednesday’s game, Jordi Cruyff told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “My father would have liked this Ajax side.” Wednesday’s showing did nothing to change that opinion. Ajax stayed true to their values and managed 60 percent possession. Frenkie de Jong commanded, giving and going, twisting and turning, always moving, losing whomever it was who followed him.

Hakim Ziyech, for one, will be cursing his accuracy. The Moroccan’s aim failed him as the game wore on, but Wojciech Szczesny still needed to produce a world-class stop in the 17th minute to tip over one of Ziyech’s seven shots. Van de Beek blasted another chance high and wide soon afterward, and Nicolas Tagliafico, who will miss the second leg through suspension, caught Joao Cancelo napping but couldn’t steer Ziyech’s far-post cross on goal.cheap youth nfl jerseys

The inability to take the opportunities they created risked coming back to haunt Ajax and so it proved. Cristiano Ronaldo had not been peripheral. He’d volleyed a Miralem Pjanic corner wide and set up Federico Bernardeschi with a knock-down. But his opener — the last act of the first half – definitely came against the run of play.