Ajax faces Manchester United in the Europa League final

0
248
ajax after lyon win

Ajax are through to their first European final in 21 years after holding off a Lyon onslaught at Parc Olympique Lyonnais to progress through 5-4 on aggregate.

The Dutch giants squandered a lead on the night and were left looking nervous in the closing stages, seeing a four-goal advantage reduced to just one for the final few minutes.

Quickfire Alexandre Lacazette goals and a powerful Rachid Ghezzal header put Lyon in the ascendancy against an Ajax side reduced to 10 men 84 minutes in, but in the end a 3-1 win in the second leg was not enough to keep their Europa League journey alive.

Despite last week’s heavy loss in Amsterdam, Lyon knew heading into the match that they still had a glimmer of hope thanks to their impressive scoring stats this term, which has seen them net an average of more than four-a-game on home soil in this competition.

Ajax had also failed to win on any of their past five visits to France, so when the hosts started the brighter of the two sides a comeback never truly looked out of the question.

All Lyon had to show for their bright start was a shot on target from Mathieu Valbuena, whose away goal eight days ago ensured that the Ligue 1 outfit did at least have something left to fight for.

Those lingering hopes of progression looked to have been killed off once Kasper Dolberg delicately dinked the ball over Anthony Lopes just short of the half-hour mark, however, finding the net at the end of a Amin Younes through-ball for goal number 22 of a burgeoning season.

Hakim Ziyech and Maxime Gonalons both had chances to find the net in the minutes prior to that breakthrough moment, but for the next 15 minutes Ajax were really enjoying themselves and looked the more likely to add to the scoring.

The whole complexion of the game changed in 79 first-half seconds at the end of the opening 45 minutes, though, as 32-goal striker Lacazette converted from the spot after being challenged by Matthijs De Ligt, before tapping home from Maxwel Cornet’s cross moments later.

The second half started in an end-to-end manner as Lyon, with 13 goals in their three knockout ties prior to tonight, got right at their opponents but left themselves open to the counter.

Bertrand Traore, the scorer of two goals in the first leg, sent a tame attempt down the middle at the end of a swift break and at the other Nabil Fekir was wayward when essentially left one-on-one.

Time was fast running out for Lyon to find that eighth goal of the tie, while referee Szymon Marciniak was not helping matters by stopping play all too regularly, showing nine yellow cards in all – one eventually leading to a red.

Corentin Tolisso sent an overhead attempt over the crossbar as the end-to-end contest found its groove again, and substitute Maciej Rybus was denied from a good position by Andre Onana.

A pivotal moment arrived 78 minutes in as Donny van de Beek picked out the crossbar with his curler and, just a couple of minutes later, substitute Ghezzal saw his header deflect off Nick Viergever and past Onana.

Viergever’s night went from bad to worse, being shown a second yellow for a needless challenge on Fekir with six minutes of normal time still left to play.

Lacazette blasted over from a cross into the box late on and, from an even better chance, Cornet drilled wide of the far post when in plenty of space, with those chances proving to be the last of the night.

Ajax will now take on Manchester United in the Stockholm final 13 days from now, with the Red Devils edging past Celta Vigo 2-1 on aggregate.