Another strike by inspirational skipper, Davy Klaassen wasn’t quite enough for Ajax who endured another night of frustration in European club competition as Russian under dogs, Rostov moved into the second leg their UEFA Champions League Playoff with the Dutch giants holding a slight advantage off the back of an early away goal by Ecuadorian international, Christian Noboa reports Steven Davies.
TUESDAY 16TH AUGUST 2016
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – QUALIFYING PLAYOFF – FIRST LEG
AJAX 1-1 FC ROSTOV
Following the disappointment of dropping two points in the dying moments of Saturday’s visit of Roda, Ajax coach, Peter Bosz shuffled his pack ahead of the visit the Russian outfit – giving Chelsea loanee, Bertrand Traore his first start for de Godenzonen while also drafting in German wide man, Amin Younes along with Dutch international, Joel Veltman with Saturday’s two-goal hero, Kasper Dolberg, Kenny Tete and Daley Sinkgraven making way.
In spite of having four European Cup triumphs to their name, Ajax came into the tie in the unusual position of having never managed to best Russian opposition in any European club competition and, in spite of having the majority of the ball throughout the contest, the Amsterdammers found chances hard to come by with the Rostov back five keeping time and space for the attacking trio of El Ghazi, Traore and Younes to a minimum.
Despite their surprising victory over Anderlecht two weeks ago having secured some form of European group stage football for the first time in the club’s history and having finished as runners up in last season’s RFPL standings, Rostov came into the tie at the Amsterdam ArenA in chequered form with just four points from their opening three league games. The visitors also arrived in the Netherlands in the midst of a period of transition under the caretaker charge of former Rostov and Russian international striker, Dmitri Kirichenko – who took up the coaching reins following the departure of the Spartak Moscow-bound, Kurban Berdyev.
However, it was the Russians who, against the run of play, took the lead with their first meaningful attempt on goal through a Christian Noboa free kick from just outside the area – the curling effort wrong-footing Ajax ‘keeper, Jasper Cillessen.
As the half wore on, Ajax’s wide men gradually found more space in which to work and Anwar El Ghazi in particular carved out a number of tantalising crosses that his colleagues were frustratingly unable to capitalise upon – the Dutchman continuously terrorising Rostov’s left wing-back, Denis Terentjev throughout the match.
Yet it took until the half hour mark for Ajax’s first real clean cut opportunity to materialise – Burkina Faso international, Traore having slipped free of the shackles of his marker, dropped the shoulder and burned two defenders before seeing his shot saved by Soslan Dzhanaev’s legs – Rostov’s star man also parrying the follow up from Younes just seconds later.
Then, with 37 minutes having elapsed and the home side in firm control, Younes squared the ball across the area for Bazoer whose shot was handled by Rostov centre half, Cesar Navas, leaving the referee little option but to point to the spot – Davy Klaassen, the hero of Thessaloniki, converting the spot kick with little fuss for his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.
Having notched 14 efforts on goal in the first half alone, the home side began the second stanza where they had ended the first – on the front foot with Traore forcing Dzhanaev into a spectacular point blank save from a header after latching on to another dangerous El Ghazi cross on 54 minutes, while Nemanja Gudelj also worked the Rostov glovesman with a long range effort which Dzhanaev did well to tip over the bar in the 68th minute.
Yet, the home side found their Russian counterparts in resolute mood with chances few and far between in the second period despite the home side monopolizing over 70% of the ball throughout the course of the encounter, leaving Ajax coach, Peter Bosz with more questions than answers ahead of next week’s second leg in Rostov-on-Don.
Man of the Match: Anwar El Ghazi
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