Ajax Have Reminded Us How Good They Are

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 12: Dusan Tadic of Ajax celebrates his second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Ajax and FC Bayern Munich at Johan Cruyff Arena on December 12, 2018 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Before their game began, the scenarios for both Ajax and Bayern Munich were clear. For Ajax, a win would put them in top spot in their group, a huge achievement for them. Bayern are the better side so, therefore, Bayern are the favourites and any other result meant the Bavarians went through as group winners. However, it’s hard to believe anyone predicted the 3-3 madness that ensued in Amsterdam.

Ajax Remind the World How Good They Are

When the second half began, many expected Bayern Munich to cruise. They were 1-0 up through an early goal from Robert Lewandowski and had seen the half out well. It was a completely different game when Ajax came out in the second half, though. They pressed Bayern hard and were forcing turnovers in possession from the opening whistle.

The quality of the Ajax team was on display all over the field. Their first goal was a beautifully worked piece of one-touch art. From Frenkie De Jong to Hakim Ziyech to Donny van de Beek, who played a beautiful cross for Dusan Tadic to slam home. It was the perfect personification of the style we have come to expect from a good Ajax side but that’s not all that these kids can do.

Their slick passing and calmness in possession kept them in this game. Before the red cards, one for Ajax and one for Bayern, both deserved, the hosts were controlling possession and dominating the game. After the red cards the game turned into a chaotic mess,where the talents and weaknesses of both teams shone through.

The Standout Performers

The star performances start with Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana. The ex-Barcelona youth player was calm with his feet most of the night and he completed 83% of his passes. But he was even better with his hands, commanding his area and making top class saves. His save from Lewandowski’s header in the second half was world-class and something even his biggest fans were not sure he could pull off.

Next has to be Hakim Ziyech. The Moroccan attacking midfielder has really come into his own this season. Playing on the right wing, Ziyech has license to come inside and create at will and he continued to do that today. His touch to play in van de Beek for the first goal was phenomenal. The 25-year-old has seven goals and five assists in all competitions this season and it’s easy to see why he will be a hot commodity this summer.

But really, all of the Ajax youngsters have shown themselves well both in this game and in the game in Munich.19-year-old centre-back Matthijs de Ligt has been a revelation.  He was, once again, outstanding against Bayern, even playing as an auxiliary centre-forward towards the end. Frenkie De Jong made one mistake all night and, though it cost him, he still had a stellar game, controlling the Ajax midfield at the age of 21.

They weren’t the only kids on the field who played well. Onana is only 22-years-old, their right-back, Noussair Mazroui, is only 21 and David Neres is only 20. Many of these kids are the same ones that starred en-route to a Europa League final. Now their outstanding play has led them into the Round of 16 in the Champions League and another home game in Amsterdam to make an impact.

Bayern Takeaways

The Bayern takeaways have to start with Kingsley Coman. The young Frenchman has had a horror streak of injuries, even prompting him to discuss retirement over another surgery. But he came on in the last 20 minutes and his impact was felt instantly. He is the only Bayern player with the right combination of blistering pace and calm control.

He got in behind the Ajax defence and dribbled through them numerous times in that 20 minutes. As the game got more and more, open he got more and more involved, even scoring the goal that punished the Frenkie De Jong mis-step. Other than Coman, it’s hard to find any positive takeaways for Bayern.

They had been completely outplayed from the start of the second half, until the red card for Max Wöber. Jerome Boateng was atrocious the whole half, giving away possession in the first 30 seconds and fouling Kasper Dolberg for the penalty. His catastrophic 18 months continues and should be a real worry for Bayern going forward.

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