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Tottenham 0-1 Ajax: Madrid, Turin, London – The Champions League goes on



The Dutch side conquered one of Europe's major football cities – with 1-0 win over Spurs – to give themselves the edge ahead of next week

We’ve seen Real Madrid, we’ve seen them out of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus, and Ajax are now 90 minutes away from first Champions League final since 1996.

But where we saw and confident – even brash – team sweep away from the grandest names in European football in previous rounds, this narrow victory over Tottenham was not so swashbuckling.

Like a promising young prize-fighter proven to have a glass jaw, Ajax to survive on their wits at times. Their passing game was disrupted by an energetic Spurs side, who looked more at the following sickening collision involving Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, who was replacing the former with Moussa Sissoko.

By that stage many Spurs fans might have been wondering why Mauricio Pochettino hadn't started with that shape if it wasn't necessarily the personnel that made the 4-4-2 diamond after Vertonghen's exit.

Because of that point Spurs had played into Ajax's hands. It was as if they had seen nothing of Europe’s most exciting pretenders since Monaco reached this stage two years ago. Frenkie de Jong was allowed to pick his head up and find passes. Hakim Ziyech was lording it in any domain he fancied. The twin threats of David Neres and Donny van de Beek had their own way in attack.

They had a goal – a crucial goal at that – which was well deserved. Van de Beek's neat turn and shot from Ziyech's through the ball showed him as the calmest man inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

It could have been two at least for a couple of occasions after. Spurs had no grip on their opponents, he looked at the break, and suffered at the hands of superior energy and ideas.

Late on – after the Spurs onslaught – they survived one more scare when Neres hit the post off and Dusan Tadic assist.

Fernando Llorente Tottenham 2018-19

Ajax by that stage were made to survive and substantial Tottenham storm. The English team came in waves, time and again. And if in the truth they created a little in the way of clear-cut chances, they are nonetheless made Ajax in an unfamiliar way. They tested this inexperienced team in a way they had been tested in the knockouts to this point.

Spurs brought plenty of the discipline and urgency which helped in the first leg against Manchester City. They are used to make their wide-ranging players Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier. Dele Alli occupied pockets of space, Christian Eriksen roved.

But there was a bluntness in the makinghift strike of Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente. The Brazilian edged into Ajax territory with dribble. The Llorente is headed by Andre Onana's goal.

Cameroon international made a villain of his own in the eyes of the Spurs fans, lingering every time the ball was in-hand or while waiting to take a goal kick. The noise in this place, and Onana would have felt every boo and shout.

But he never wavered in the cauldron; he continued to claim high balls that eluded Matthijs De Ligt and Daley Blind and give breathing space to his team-mates.

They needed it. Ajax were constricted; They didnurst blow Spurs away as they have done to other, more experienced European sides.

And with Spurs severely depleted, some on Erik Ten Hag's technical staff might wonder if this will be enough. Only one of the 17 previous teams to win the first leg at home in the European Cup / Champions League semi-final tie to the final – coincidentally Ajax in 1996 – but they were agitated, josted and knocked out of their stride.

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With Son Heung-min and – possibly – Harry Kane's return, Spurs will not be fearing their trip to the Amsterdam Arena next week.

There is work to be done for Ajax and they will need to recover their composure.

Europe’s darlings may be, but they are made to sweat to pass Spurs.


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