WEDNESDAY 24TH AUGUST 2016
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE – ROUND OF 32 – FIRST LEG
LEGIA WARSAW 0-0 AJAX
Ten-man Ajax came away from a potentially tricky trip to Poland in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against Legia Warsaw unscathed after the two sides played out a goalless draw at the Polish Army Stadium and the undermanned visitors could have had more had goal-line technology been available to the official.
The four-time European champions appeared to have taken the lead in the eighth minute when Ajax skipper, Davy Klaassen’s volley from just outside the box – following a perfectly placed left wing cross from Hakim Ziyech, appeared to be fumbled over the line by Legia ‘keeper, Arkadiusz Malarz. However, with referee, David Jose Fernandez Borbalan unsighted and unable to call upon goal-line technology for assistance, the hosts escaped and the score remained goalless.
Following the early controversy, the game entered a tentative feeling out process until a promising break by Amin Younes eleven minutes before the interval was squandered by Ziyech – who fluffed his lines by presenting Malarz with a comfortable save having been played in on goal by the marauding German. But the visitors continued to pile on the pressure and, just two minutes later, the home ‘keeper had to be down sharply to deny Chelsea loanee, Bertrand Traore at his near post.
Jacek Magiera’s side – who took up their place in the round of 32 by virtue of finishing an unlikely third in a UEFA Champions League group that had contained Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Sporting Lisbon despite having conceded a whopping 24 goals in the process, created only one real chance of note in the first half which fell to Bursaspor loanee, Tomas Necid, but the Czech forward – who spent a productive loan spell in the Eredivisie with PEC Zwolle while on the books of CSKA Moscow before making the move permanent in February of 2015 and moving to Turkey on a free transfer later that year, failed to get any real power behind his 39th minute volley which Ajax ‘keeper, Andre Onana held comfortably.
There was still time for the visitors to squander another effort before the interval with Kasper Dolberg this time the culprit – the Danish starlet ballooning his attempt high and wide of Malarz’s goal from the edge of the box after having been teed up by a perfectly placed square ball from Younes a minute before half time.
With the visitors having wasted a number of opportunities, the reigning Polish champions who currently sit four points off the pace behind Lechia Gdansk in the Ekstraklasa – which has only just resumed following a prolonged winter break, almost made Peter Bosz’s men pay on the hour mark when substitute, Michal Kucharczyk cut in from the right and squared the ball past the outstretched arm of Onana to present Miroslav Radovic with what appeared to be a simple tap-in until the returning Kenny Tete beat the Legia skipper to the ball to keep the visitors on level terms.
Having overcome the same opposition at the same stage of the same competition two seasons ago the visitors found Magiera’s men a more difficult not to crack than the Legia side the Lancers dumped out of the competition 4-0 on aggregate in 2014/15 but had one more opportunity to take a priceless lead into the second leg when, following a neat give and go between Lasse Schone and Ziyech, the Dane was denied at the near post by the legs of Malarz twelve minutes from time.
Coming into this encounter, Ajax coach, Bosz had made one enforced change from the eleven that had taken the field against Sparta Rotterdam at the weekend with Kenny Tete replacing Joel Veltman – who was omitted due to illness, and it ended up being an eventful evening for the 21-year-old who has been largely out of favour this term.
Having saved his side’s blushes on the hour, the Dutch international then collected a booking in the 71st minute before being somewhat harshly given his marching orders by referee, Borbalan six minutes from time after tugging back Legia’s Brazilian midfielder, Guiherme on half way.
Despite being a man up the hosts failed to make their advantage count – meaning that there will be all to play for in the second leg at the Amsterdam ArenA in a week’s time.
Man of the Match: Amin Younes
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