Assured Ajax beat tame Spurs to take control of Champions League semi-final
Ajax gained control of their UEFA Champions League semi-final as a Donny van de Beek goal saw the Dutch side beat a tame Tottenham 1-0 in their first leg in London.
Van de Beek, 22, slotted coolly past Hugo Lloris in the 15th minute for the only goal of the game as the young Dutch team put in a typically composed performance while Spurs disappointed on one of the biggest nights in the club’s history.
Spurs’ chances were few and far between, while they suffered further injury woes by losing defender Jan Vertonghen to a nasty gash to the nose in the first half.
David Neres almost put the tie further beyond the Premier League club but he hit the post with 10 minutes to play when Lloris again looked beaten in the Spurs goal.
The Dutch club now take a 1-0 lead to Amsterdam for next weeks’ second leg, while Spurs have it all to do.
AJAX COMPOSED, SPURS FAIL TO SPARK
Both clubs headed into the tie having surpassed all expectations in reaching this stage, although it was the hosts who appeared to let the occasion get the better of them as they started nervously in front of an expectant home crowd at their spectacular new stadium.
In contrast, Ajax soon found their rhythm and got the lead their early dominance warranted when van de Beek was played in by Hakim Ziyech, composing himself and slotting the ball past Lloris with quarter of an hour gone.
There was a suggestion of offside, but after a VAR check the goal stood and Spurs were behind.
The fearless Dutch team characteristically showed no sign of sitting on their lead as they continued to press, enjoying close to 70% possession in the opening 25 minutes.
Spurs’ forays into the opposition half were rare, and they first threatened with a header from Spaniard Fernando Llorente that was well wide.
Somewhat perversely, it finally took an injury blow to defensive lynchpin Vertonghen to rouse the home team.
The Belgian suffered a nasty blow to the head while challenging in the Ajax box from a free-kick, colliding with both Ajax keeper Andre Onana and teammate Toby Alderweireld.
Vertonghen came off the worse, and was left needing treatment as blood poured from a cut at the bridge of his nose.
He incredibly tried to continue, before appearing close to collapse as he was helped off the pitch, leading to questions over the medical protocols that allowed him back on the pitch.Also on rt.com 'How was Vertonghen allowed back on?!': Uproar as Spurs defender tries to play on after head injury
For a Spurs team already missing key men - including injured star striker Harry Kane and the suspended Son Heung-min - it was yet more misery for their threadbare squad.
When play got back underway, Spurs finally tested Ajax just before half time through a header from Alderweireld as he was unmarked in the box, but sent the ball over the bar.
The home side began with much more intent in the second half as Dele Alli headed over at the back post from a Kieran Trippier cross, although Ajax remained largely unruffled despite the increased pressure.
David Neres so nearly doubled the lead for Ajax as he stabbed the ball across the goal with 10 minutes to play, beating Lloris but seeing the ball agonizingly hit the upright and roll clear.
Spurs failed to muster any real sustained pressure as the game fizzled out, meaning they will have it all to do in Amsterdam in a week’s time.
For Ajax’s fearless young team, they have one foot firmly in the final after yet another composed performance on the road as the stars of this year’s competition continue to dream of an unlikely shot at a fifth top European title for this famous Dutch club.