Advantage Ajax after first leg of semi-final
Spurs 0-1 Ajax
Tue 30 April 2019, 22:02|Tottenham Hotspur
We head to Amsterdam next week needing to turn things around after Ajax won our Champions League semi-final, first leg with the only goal of the game at the new stadium on Tuesday evening.
Donny van de Beek’s 15th-minute strike was the difference between the teams in a game in which chances really were at a premium, just three shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, Dele Alli having our only one at the start of the second half.
The Dutch side had the better of the first period but we dominated the second, certainly in terms of possession, although we couldn’t carve out that opening we needed to draw level despite plenty of endeavour.
The atmosphere was outstanding in the lead up to kick-off as we hosted our first semi-final in Europe’s leading competition since our tie with Benfica in the 1961/62 European Cup. And both teams started the game well, although our visitors soon had the upper hand. They went ahead after a quarter-of-an-hour when Lasse Schone out on the left flank found Hakim Ziyech 25 yards from goal and he played a neat pass in behind our defence to van de Beek, who had time to take a touch and slot past Hugo Lloris. VAR checked for offside, but there was no offence and the goal stood.
We were struggling to find any rhythm after that setback, while Ajax were looking dangerous and went close again on 24 minutes when Dusan Tadic and van de Beek combined in the box, but Lloris was out quickly to block the latter’s effort from a tight angle. At the other end, we had our first opportunity, Fernando Llorente heading just wide from Kieran Trippier’s free-kick.
We were forced into a change six minutes before the break when Jan Vertonghen had to go off after suffering a nasty injury when cracking his nose into the back of Toby Alderweireld’s head at a free-kick. He had lengthy treatment on the pitch and then tried to carry on, but couldn’t continue and was replaced by Moussa Sissoko. Vertonghen and Alderweireld were two of the four ex-Ajax players in our ranks who all started the game. The delay took some of the sting out of the game and the atmosphere but we did finish the half strongly, Alderweireld this time finding himself free in the area from another free-kick but just heading over, while a Sissoko 25-yard pile-driver flashed a yard wide and we went in a goal down at the break.
It was certainly a lively start to the second half as the crowd really got behind the team again and we responded, Llorente showing great skill but unable to get a shot away, Dele seeing an effort blocked and then fizzing a drive straight at Andre Onana in the Ajax goal. We were enjoying much more possession and pushing Ajax back without really creating anything clear cut, while the visitors were always a threat on the counter and it needed a smart block from Alderweireld to prevent Tadic’s drive from testing Lloris.
And we had a let off on 78 minutes when the Dutch side hit us on the break again, van de Beek holding off Christian Eriksen’s challenge and finding Tadic, who in turn found David Neres and although his left-foot shot beat Lloris, it hit the far post and we cleared the danger. Back on the front foot moments later, an Eriksen free-kick was headed over by Alderweireld and we pushed forwards in the closing stages, with plenty of crosses into the box, but our final ball was lacking too often and the Dutch side's defence was able to see out the final minutes without conceding.
With the second leg still to come, it remains to be seen how important Ajax’s goal was, but it was certainly the defining moment of this match.
The visitors only had two shots on target and van de Beek’s was the crucial one, winning the match and giving the Dutch side the advantage ahead of the return in Amsterdam.
Mauricio Pochettino said: "It was really tough and we cannot afford to start the game in the way that we started. That was the key point. They showed more energy than us, they were fresh and more proactive than us. After 30 minutes, when Moussa Sissoko came in, we were better. In the second half, the reaction was very good and we pushed them. The second half was very competitive and we created a few chances, not enough to score, but the tie is so open and we need to go there next week and try to score and win the game if we want be in the final."
Reaction on Spurs TV
Spurs 0-1 Ajax
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Trippier (Foyth 79), Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen (Sissoko 39), Wanyama, Rose (Davies 79), Eriksen, Dele, Lucas, Llorente. Substitutes (not used): Gazzaniga, Walker-Peters, Dier, Skipp.
Ajax (4-3-3): Onana, Veltman, Blind, De Ligt (c), Tagliafico, de Jong, Schone (Mazraoui 65), van de Beek, Ziyech (Huntelaar 87), Tadic, Neres. Subtitutes (not used): Varela, Sinkgraven, Magallan, Dolberg, de Wit.
Goal: Ajax – van de Beek 15.
Yellow cards: Ajax – Tagliafico, Veltman.
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz.
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Weather: Partly cloudy, gentle breeze, eight degrees.