Tottenham - Ajax: Van de Beek helps Ajax beat Spurs
A first half goal from Donny van de Beek helped Ajax past Spurs in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday night in the Champions League semi-final.
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Ajax: match report
Ajax landed the first blow in their Champions League semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday night. After their ebullient start, which bore a goal from Donny van de Beek, a nasty injury for Jan Vertonghen and a change of system from Mauricio Pochettino, they were on the backfoot for the remainder of the game. A team that has wowed crowds from Turin to Madrid were happy enough to soak up pressure after that opening strike as they showed a maturity beyond their years, something their manager asked for, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
In the Battle of the Unlikely Lads, Ajax arrived in London with the same swagger that has brought them this far. They pressed Spurs and pinned them into their own half after Pochettino had chosen to play a back three with two wing-backs because of the depth of his injury crisis. Rose and Trippier started on the wings with Victor Wanyama minding the house as former Ajax player Christian Eriksen went off in search of assists. The middle was never stable enough for Spurs to continue and it wasn't long before Pochettino was plotting a change of system.
The goal came first though and was straight out of Ten Hag's playbook and while we might not have seen an exact replica of it before, the underlying traits of many of their Champions League goals were there.
Starting out on the left, Neres kept his composure and after a stepover that bought him a yard, sent it into the middle for Schone. He played it to Ziyech in close quarters and the attackers slashed and sliced holes in Spurs defense for the attacker to exploit.
Through on of those holes, between Rose and Vertonghen, Donny van de Beek had peeled off. With the Belgian stepping out in a failed attempt to catch him offside and Rose making a doomed effort to get his big toe on the ball, the Ajax midfielder took the ball, shimmied, yawned, had a look around, shimmied again, looked at his watch and finally when Lloris went to ground he slotted home to give Ajax the lead.
It was about to get worse for Spurs too as Jan Vertonghen caught the back of Toby Alderweireld's head from a lobbed free. He continued for a matter of seconds before having to be carried off the field as the debate over concussions and head injuries looks set to rear its head again.
After that, with Sissoko sprung from the bench, Poch returned to four at the back and Spurs grabbed a hold of the kicking and screaming visitors and nearly suffocated them.
As the half-time whistle drew closer, Spurs were getting closer too. A chance from Alderweireld found the roof of the net and Sissoko drilled one wide as Ajax retreated and Spurs smelled fear.
They couldn't find the goal and while they dominated the second half, they only ever really threatened to threaten. They were close to being close to an equaliser but they could never get the ball into central enough positions where they could hurt Ajax. Fernnado Llorente tried hard but didn't have room to turn a sweet in his mouth as he drifted into docile positions in search of space.
Onana caught six crosses in his box as Spurs tried to attack down the flanks when they couldn't gain any traction in the middle. Lucas Moura looked dangerous on the right and linked well with Eriksen at times but ultimately, Spurs were handcuffed due to injuries.
The closest we came to a goal in the second half was when David Neres, a constant pest for the home side, popped up at the back post and sent a shot flying off the base of the post.
Smash and grab football and Ajax are not regular bedfellows but on this occasion, they scored and retreated even if that was not always the plan. Spurs were the better side overall but that slow start, crucial opener and away goal that Van de Beek scored after 15 minutes could haunt them as they get ready to travel to Amsterdam having learned a lot about their opponents and themselves in London.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Ajax live online: match updates
Tottenham Hotspur vs Ajax live online: preview
All eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday night as two of the most unlikely Champions League semi-finalists play each other for a spot in the decider in Madrid at the start of June. Spurs, having beaten Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City, play Ajax, who have already seen of Real Madrid and Juventus. They did it in emphatic style too. Spurs, a team who didn't spend a single penny in the summer are proving that being competitive with good coaching and Ajax, a club built on their youth academy have been doing that for years but just not on this stage. Regardless of who wins this one, it's a victory for the underdog.
Spurs have no Harry Kane after Mauricio Pochettino ruled out the possibility of a return despite Lucas Moura hinting that he might be back on time. Meanwhile, Harry Winks underwent groin surgery and is also out. They went through a crises in the build-up to the City game and things haven't really improved since then. They are also without Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier through injury and one of their heroes against City, Heung Min-Son is suspended. Davinson Sanchez should start and another hero against Guardiola's side, Fernando Llorente, should replace Kane in the starting line-up.
Ten Hag has made a realy name for himself with his excellent style of play and he has asked for that same maturity on Tuesday night. They showed it off against Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to victories over both European heavyweights. Reading back over this year's Champions League knockout stages in 10 years, you might think they scraped their way to wins but they really didn't. They pummeled Real Madrid at home and away and did largely the same against Juventus. The only absence for Ten Hag is Bandé, who is out with a calf injury along with Mazraoui, who could potentially miss out with an ankle problem.