THURSDAY 9TH MARCH 2017
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE – ROUND OF 16 – FIRST LEG
FC COPENHAGEN 2-1 AJAX
FC Copenhagen took a step closer to a place in the quarter finals of the UEFA Europa League after an Andreas Cornelius strike just short of the hour mark edged the Danish champions ahead of four-time European champions, Ajax in the 1st leg of their round of 16 encounter.
However, Peter Bosz’s men become the first side to score at the Telia Parken since 20th August and, in the process, snagged a priceless away goal ahead of the return leg at the Amsterdam ArenA on 16th March.
The Ajax coach was forced to shuffle his cards ahead of this round of 16 encounter with both Colombian centre half, Davinson Sanchez and Dutch international, Joel Veltman ruled out through suspension for the visitors. Having featured against Groningen at the weekend, 17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt retained his place at centre half alongside the returning Nick Viergever, while Bosz also drafted in Kenny Tete – who was again free for selection following his dismissal in the 1st leg of Ajax’s round of 32 tie with Legia Warsaw which had seen the Dutch international sit out the return leg in which the Lancers had squeezed past the Polish champions by virtue of a solitary strike by Viergever.
Having lost just once this season in all competitions – coming up short against reigning Premier League champions, Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in the UEFA Champions League on 18th October, Stale Solbakken’s side roared out of the blocks and caught their illustrious visitors cold –taking the lead with less than a minute on the clock after a well-weighted dink over the top of the visitor’s shuffled rear guard by William Kvist found the untracked run of Rasmus Falk Jensen who took the pass in his stride before firing the ball hard and low across the face of Ajax’s exposed ‘keeper, Andre Onana and into the back of the net to put the hosts into the ascendancy with just 27 seconds on the clock.
With Moroccan winger, Youssef Toutouh having already dragged a pair of chances wide of Onana’s right hand upright, the hosts – who finished third in a UEFA Champions League group that, in addition to Leicester, had included Porto and Club Brugge to earn a place in European club football’s second tier competition, where they had negotiated their way past Bulgarian outfit, Ludogorets in the round of 32, threatened to extend their lead further just short of the half hour mark but Paraguayan forward, Federico Santander failed to make Viergever pay for a sloppy piece of distribution – firing the ball wide of Onana’s left hand upright after finding himself one-on-one with the visiting glovesman.
With the away side having immediately found themselves on the back foot, Peter Bosz’s men rallied admirably as the opening half wore on and struck an important mental blow in the tie by becoming the first side to score at the Telia Parken since a strike by Christian Bassogog ultimately earned a point for AaB in a Danish Superliga encounter against the reigning Danish champions on 20th August – Chelsea loanee, Bertrand Traore cutting in from the right and slipping in Ajax skipper, Davy Klaassen whose cross was finished superbly by Kasper Dolberg – the Danish starlet making his compatriots pay with a spectacular bicycle kick despite the attentions of Peter Ankersen on the edge of the box with 32 minutes on the clock.
The sides would go in all square at the break despite Falk Jensen having the ball in the back of the visitor’s net again just before the break – the 25-year-old seeing his effort ruled out after Santander had been adjudged to be in an offside position during the build-up by referee, Artur Dias Soares.
Yet, this would prove to be just a temporary reprieve for the 33-time Dutch champions who – despite making a bright start to the second half found themselves trailing once more as their hosts re-established their superiority just short of the hour mark – Ankersen burning off the attentions of Daley Sinkgraven on the right before picking out Cornelius who – having out-muscled de Ligt, beat Onana with a towering header in the 59th minute.
With both sides having squandered chances in the closing stages, the visitors did have the ball in the back of their host’s net three minutes from time. Yet, Dolberg’s 87th minute header was ruled out by referee, Soares who adjudged that the 19-year-old had pushed Uros Matic in the back prior to beating Robin Olsen in the Copenhagen goal.
The decision didn’t sit well with the Ajax players – least of all skipper, Klaassen who talked himself into the book of the Portuguese official – earning a yellow card that will now rule the influential Dutch international out of the return leg in Amsterdam in a week’s time.
Man of the Match: Uros Matic
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