And breathe! Ajax have reached their first European Final since 1996. This a great achievement for the club and proves to the world that Ajax can compete with the best on the grand stage. The performance itself was disappointing. Bosz will make sure to address this going into the final. Despite the performance, the achievement in making the final will be at the forefront of discussions.
Going into the game, Ajax were in a strong position. 4-1 up on aggregate put them in the driving seat in what should have been a fairly simple game in progressing into the final. But football doesn’t like to make it simple, it likes to make things more interesting. For Ajax, interesting wasn’t a good thing. Initially, the game started off fairly equal, with Lyon out on a mission to overturn the deficit. With their fans behind them, Lyon set out to put their blueprint on the game. The opening 10 minutes saw that. The team from France looked at taking advantage of the attacking nature of the fullbacks and hope to gain space and creativity down the wing.
Lyon worked their way up the field with a spread across the attack. The midfield providing the vital link. This proved to be effective in the initial stages of the game. Statistically Lyon had the upper hand. 57% possession, 3 shots with 1 on target, 65 pass success %, 84 touches, 2 dribbles, 6 aerial duels won, and dispossessing Ajax 4 times. At this stage, it looked like Lyon were progressing to make this a game of their own. But it wasn’t all easy for them. The mastermind leading Ajax, Bosz, adapted to the situation and made sure the competitive spirit at the Amsterdam club was kept at a high level. It paid off.
Away goals in European competitions are crucial. Despite the lead on aggregate, Ajax would almost be able to put the game to sleep if they could get that all important away goal. They did just that. You’ve heard of that wonder kid, Dolberg, haven’t you? Well you’re about to hear about him again. Making the most of being at the forefront of this very talented Ajax team, Dolberg introduced himself in the 26th minute.
Younes and Dolberg worked together in providing scintillating goal that oozed the very essence of what Ajax is about. This now put the wonder kid on season to remember. 45 games, 22 goals, and 7 assists. The Danish sensation continues to blow everyone away. At that stage it looked like that was it. Ajax had the away goal and it now seemed unlikely that Lyon would be able to bounce back. That proved to not be the case. With halftime calling, Lacazette rose to the occasion. A penalty in the 44th minute put the home team level. That wasn’t everything, 2 minutes later they hit back again. Catching the Dutch team by surprise, Lacazette made it 2-1 going into the half. From a high to a low in the matter of minutes for Ajax. The first half ended with Ajax having 47% possession, 8 shots, 68 pass success %, 4 chances created, 13 take ons, and 15 clearances.
Despite the lead on aggregate, the game was getting very tense from the Dutch perspective. Lyon were on the brink of making this game a real challenge. Bosz must have been frustrated with the performance so far. With this being the case, Ajax had to make sure they held on till the end. The second half saw more pressure from Lyon. It was clear they wanted to do what they could to upset the Amsterdammers. Being dominant in possession is something that the French team were making the most of. The attack containing Lacazette, Valbuena, Fekir, and Comet were able to work their way through the Ajax team who were unable to have a full foothold in the game. In the second half itself they combined for a total of 110 touches and 7 shots. Things weren’t looking good for the away team. Much of their attack was limited and ineffective, especially on the wing. Younes and Traoré had limited influence on the game. A substitute was made in the 76th minute by Lyon, a substitute that proved to be effective. Four minutes later Ghezzal made the most of his opportunity by giving the home time a greater lead. They were on the doorstep of taking this to extra time. But it proved to not be enough. This was a game full of fouls and cards, this was epitomised in the 83rd minute when Viergever received his second yellow card and was sent off. Overall for Ajax this game was hugely disappointing. A performance they will look to put behind them. Statistically, Lyon dominated every area. Much of the attack for Ajax was done down the left side, with Younes and then Kluivert leading the way. This worked to a certain extent with Younes getting an assist. But this wasn’t good enough compared to what has been seen in recent times. The action zone show that a majority of the game was spent in the middle and away third. Ajax came away from the game with a 6% conversion rate.
— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) May 11, 2017
Despite the poor performance, Ajax have come away as the ultimate victors. They are going to the Europa League Final. A massive achievement for the club. It shows that Ajax are here to compete with the best. The plethora of talent is leading the way. Let’s hope Ajax come away victorious in the final.