The last game was a snooze fest. Make no bones about it. Both teams are exciting projects that give you an expectation that it will be frenetic. It turned out to be a snooze fest in the end with either side failing to break locks.
The first leg, which ended in a 0-0 draw, featured just three shots on target and a combined xG of 1.26 in total. This is in fact the lowest of any first leg match in this season’s Europa League play-offs.
If Ajax bow out of the Europa league, at least have the cojones to go out in style. They have been playing attractive football in parts but Union Berlin are above that. A surplus is required from Ajax to have a chance at winning the Europa League.
Ajax were dominated last time, at home no less. Add to that, it was their debut in the knock-out stages of the competition. Die Eisernen looked positive and kept throwing punches but Ajax managed to hold on.
There were some native Amsterdamers playing for Berlin first leg. Sheraldo Becker and Danilho Doekhi are both graduates of Jong Ajax. Becker was at Ajax from 2013 to 2015 and Doekhi spent 2016-18 at the Dutch Giants.
I am running out of headings for Mohammed Kudus. The man has directly been involved in six goals in seven appearances in European Competition this season (four goals and two assists) – the most of any player for the dutch side.
Here’s another stat for you because why not: 14 goals scored and three assists this season and you could argue 90% of them have been pretty good bangers.
With the amount of teams looking to bolster their squads this Summer after a World Cup season, it would be a shame if Kudus left for the premier league but there’s no denying, Ajax must do what they can to keep the 22-year-old Ghanaian.
He just scored a fantastic free-kick against Sparta, where mid-celebration he revealed a ‘R.I.P. Atsu’ caption on his shirt to acknowledge the tragic passing of Christian Atsu in the Turkey Earthquakes.
The Heitinga effect
Dusan Tadic made zero goals and zero assists in his last three games before John Heitinga arrived at the helm as manager. Tadic now has four goals and four assists in his last six games. Tadic has had a lot of success being played as a #9 as opposed to being played in the wings or midfield.
If Heitinga can finish atop the Erevidisie and go far into Europa League knockouts, he can stake a real claim for the job permanently.
Union Berlin away at Ajax last night 👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/2bkz8WqX2o
— 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐮𝐚𝐥 𝐔𝐥𝐭𝐫𝐚 𝐎𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 (@thecasualultra) February 17, 2023
The german side are unbeaten in their last five games in the Europa league – including four wins and one draw. They have five clean sheets, more than any other team in the competition this season.
The Bundesliga club also choked Ajax to no shots on target in the first half and zero on target throughout the game. Union had 13 attempts with three on target.
Union built a great platform following the first leg. The players can build on that and potentially make history.
Ajax have a higher hill to climb due to the second leg being away. Can they go there and get the job done?