Monday, September 28, 2020

Ajax 3-0 Lille: Ten Hag´s men start Champions League campaign in style

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 17 Sep 2019

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Last season’s beaten semi-finalists Ajax opened their 2019-20 Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win over Lille on Tuesday.

Erik ten Hag’s side – who were denied a place in the final by Tottenham last term – were in dominant mood against their Ligue 1 opponents and looked well placed to claim all three points from the outset in Amsterdam.

Quincy Promes headed them into an 18th-minute lead before Edson Alvarez scored his first goal for the club five minutes after the interval.

Nicolas Tagliafico added a third with a thumping header after 62 minutes as the Dutch champions stormed into pole position in Group H.

Ajax started on the front foot and went agonisingly close to taking the lead in the 14th minute, Hakim Ziyech’s thunderous half-volley crashing back off Mike Maignan’s right-hand post.

They did not have to wait long to go ahead, though, as an unmarked Promes met Tagliafico’s deep cross with a powerful header just four minutes later.

Lille responded well to that early setback and should have pulled level moments before the interval. Jonathan Bamba picked out Jonathan Ikone after a surging run down the left but Andre Onana got down well to keep out his low effort, with Victor Osimhen hooking the rebound over the crossbar.

The hosts looked sharp at the start of the second period, Ziyech testing Maignan low down to his left with a fierce drive.

Their positive approach was rewarded in the 50th minute when David Neres slid Alvarez in down the right after a flowing team move and the Mexican superbly lifted a shot across the Lille goalkeeper from a tight angle to double their advantage. 

Tagliafico ensured there would be no dramatic comeback from Lille when he made it 3-0 shortly after the hour mark, superbly heading home Ziyech’s outswinging corner.

Yusuf Yazici crashed an effort against the post late on as Lille tried in vain to restore some respectability to a scoreline that did not flatter the hosts.
 

What does it mean? Ajax move on from high-profile departures

They might have lost talented youngsters Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong during the close season, but Ajax look well poised to enjoy another fruitful Champions League campaign. In Ziyech and Neres, they have two of the most exciting wide men in the tournament, who will surely give better defences that Lille’s trouble this season.

Ziyech continues to sparkle

Only Lionel Messi created more ‘big chances’ than Ziyech in last season’s competition and on this evidence, it is not hard to see why. The Moroccan was outstanding and can consider himself lucky not to have got on the scoresheet.

Osimhen’s misses haunt Lille

The French side were comfortably the inferior team but they might permit themselves to wonder what might have been had the Nigeria international taken either of the chances that fell to him. As it was, he squandered both and was duly punished by a ruthless Ajax side.

Key Opta Facts:

– Ajax ended a run of four home Champions League matches without a win (W0 D2 L2), with this their first since a 1-0 win over Benfica in last season’s group stage.
– Lille have never won their first Champions League match of a campaign, with this being their sixth attempt (W0 D2 L4).
– Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez became the first Mexican player to score on his Champions League debut.
– Including qualifiers, Lille are winless in 12 European matches (W0 D6 L6) since winning 2-0 against Grasshopper Zurich in a Champions League qualifier in July 2014.

What’s next?

Ajax return to Eredivisie action on Sunday against rivals PSV with their next Champions League match against Valencia on October 2. Lille, meanwhile, face Rennes in Ligue 1 at the weekend before hosting Chelsea in matchweek two.

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