Hakim Ziyech, David Neres give Ajax Champions League semi-final hope after battling draw with Juventus

Aditya Devavrat 08:12 11/04/2019
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David Neres and Hakim Ziyech starred for Ajax.

Ajax gave themselves a fighting chance of a spot in the Champions League semi-final after coming from behind to get a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the quarter-final at home against Juventus.

The Dutch side dominated the game in a way that belied the gulf in experience between the two sides, as Juve were left hanging on after David Neres’ equaliser after half-time cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener. Ajax may wonder how they didn’t end up the winning side.

Here, we rate the Ajax players’ performances.

STARTING XI

Andre Onana 6 – Could do nothing for Ronaldo’s goal, as Ajax’s defence was simply broken down by the Portuguese’s movement. Onana’s distribution was poor at times, which was cause for concern.

Joel Veltman 7 – Given that his chief task was to deal with the dual threat of Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic, Veltman acquitted himself well on Wednesday. Stood up to Juve’s feted attackers.

Matthijs de Ligt 6 –  Matured display from the Dutchman. Read the game well and moved at the right time without getting caught out of position. Bernardeschi and Mandzukic had nothing to work with such was his overall dominance.

Daley Blind 6 –  The former Manchester United man led by example at the centre of the defence. Kept Ronaldo in check for most of the game.

Nicolas Tagliafico 6 – Lucky to not have given away a penalty for a second-half foul that would also have seen him sent off. But he’ll also rue his team-mates’ inability to find him in space – there were plenty of times Tagliafico had stolen a few yards on the left wing only to go unnoticed.

Lasse Schone 6 – Not the best display from one of the stars of the last-16 win over Real Madrid, as his set-piece deliveries were lacking their usual quality. Helped Ajax control midfield but it was no surprise when he was taken off.

Frenkie de Jong 8 – Produced one brilliant last-man tackle that showed a side to his game many may not have seen before. His usual qualities were on display as well.

Hakim Ziyech 7 – Ajax’s most consistent threat on the ball, and on this display a club looking for a right-winger should definitely have perked up. Sent one wild shot wide, but drew a smart save out of Wojciech Szczesny and was lively throughout.

Donny van de Beek 6 – An eager presence in Ajax’s attack, though his runs lacked the timing that could have made this a lethal display instead of merely an encouraging one. But his ability on the ball had Juve on their toes.

David Neres 7 – This game showed the best and the worst of the Brazilian winger. His goal was supremely well-taken, an excellent finish that gave Ajax a deserved leveller. But on other occasions, Neres’ inexperience showed in his eagerness and poor decision-making on the ball.

Dusan Tadic 6 – A quiet night from the man who has graced Ajax’s best performances of the season with his own sprinkles of stardust. This was not one of those occasions, as Tadic was well-marshalled by Juve’s defence and looked off-colour throughout.

SUBSTITUTES

Jurgen Ekkelenkamp 6 – It may not have been a surprise when Schone was taken off but the identity of the substitute certainly was. The 19-year-old’s most significant contribution was to haul down Ronaldo on a break, but it was certainly an eventful Champions League debut.

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