A first-half football lesson earned Ajax a one-goal lead to take into next week’s second leg, but Spurs showed enough in the second to make clear that the tie is still alive.
From kick-off, Ajax set about Spurs, moving the ball quickly and running of it intelligently. Somehow, Mauricio Pochettino’s 3-4-3 formation meant that his side were outnumbered both centrally and in wide areas, so it was no great surprise when, after a quarter of an hour, they took the lead.
Hakim Ziyech was the architect of the goal, first spreading the play, then picking a pass through to Donny Van de Beek, who showed affirming composure to wait, dummy, and roll past Hugo Lloris.
Sadly, the half was marred by a horrible injury to Jan Vertonghen, who headed the back of Toby Alderweireld’s head. Despite his obvious grogginess, he was sent back on before his legs gave out and he was replaced by Moussa Sissoko.
This actually helped Spurs – the extra man in midfield, especially one with such energy and drive, made it harder for Ajax to pass around them, and long balls into Fernando Llorente also helped them get up the pitch. But they still created little – the best chance of the second half came from an Ajax break, when Dusan Tadic fed David Neres, whose studied shot came back off the inside of the post.
Both sides, though, will prepare for the second leg with optimism: Ajax have the lead and fewer injuries; Spurs have Heung-min Son to come back, and a fine European away record.
Meanwhile, Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko says his side cannot afford to be left with any regrets if they are to keep their Champions League dream alive.
That is not out of the question as Sissoko’s introduction in the first half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium prompted a more direct approach from Spurs which turned the game in their favour.
“Now we have to give everything without regrets and we’ll see what will happen,” Sissoko, who was making his return following a three-game absence with a groin injury, said.
“Now we play the second leg of the semi-final, we don’t have to think too much, it’s to give 100 per cent because it’s not every season we have the chance to play a semi-final of the Champions League.
“It’s something historic for us, for the club. We want to enjoy the moment, keep going and get to the final.” – Eurosport