AFC Ajax have been the talk of the town for the past couple of months and with good reason. The Dutch outfit added yet another scalp to their ever-growing list of European giant-killings, with Juventus succumbing to a 2-1 home defeat on the night.
Juventus seemed to be in the driving seat as they took the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo’s (£2.26) well-taken downward header in the 28th minute. But this young Ajax team has shown that they are not only attractive on the footballing eye, but that they are also a very plucky side. Despite falling behind away from home, they were not over-awed by the occasion and Ajax were able to go toe-to-toe with the Italian giants. Juventus only just edged Ajax in terms of possession with 51% and both sides had a similar number of shots on goal, with Juventus hitting 13 and Ajax 14.
Back to the game, and Donny van de Beek (£1.45) drew the two sides level after he slotted home after finding himself with a surprising amount of space in the Juventus box. The Dutchman has had a fantastic week on the Index, enjoying an increase in value by 68p over, whilst seeing a whopping 45p rise last night alone! van de Beek had several more decent efforts on goal, but Wojciech Szczesny (31p) showed just how far he has come along since his Arsenal days with several excellent stops throughout the match denying the Dutchman from bagging a brace.
As the match progressed, Ajax rose to the occasion and they often produced some scintillating passing with the likes of David Neres (£2.40) and Hakim Ziyech (£1.79) constantly linking play and proving an ever-present danger to the Italian side. The tie swung in Ajax’s favour in the 67th minute as 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt (£2.50) thumped home a famous header from a corner. It is incredible to think that de Ligt is still a teenager. To captain his side and come up with such an awesome header, beating two Juventus defenders in the process, just goes to show why the biggest sides in the world are currently fluttering their eyelashes in his direction. It was no surprise to see de Ligt’s price respond in a positive manner and he found himself 38p on the night. The Dutch defender may well be young, but he shows experience and influence far beyond his year. He has already amassed over 100 professional appearances for Ajax and it is easy to see him becoming one of the world’s best in the not-so-distant future.
At this point, the game looked beyond Juventus and Hakim Ziyech was unlucky not to add further misery to Juventus, as his superb curling effort was chalked off for offside. Nontheless, when you consider the sheer gulf in terms of financial power that these two sides share, it makes Ajax’s achievement all the more incredible.
With Ajax confirming their name in the hat, they will now face either Tottenham or Man City in the semi-finals. Having now seen off both Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax has shown their ruthlessness despite the youthful age of their squad. One thing is for sure, whichever English side makes it to the next round will do very well to take Ajax very seriously indeed.