We could say Ajax once again won against all the odds, but by now, Ajax are not even considered underdogs anymore. After humiliating two of the best clubs in the world, Ajax took on Tottenham at their new stadium, where they once again won, and are now just 1 step away from playing in the finals of the UCL after 23 long years.
Let’s get it out of the way at the start. Ajax played well and Tottenham were mediocre at best. Losing 0:1 against Ajax at home puts Tottenham in an unenviable position, as their potential appearance in the first ever UCL finals slowly drifts away. While there is a possibility for the Spurs to find to get themselves afloat, it will be harder as it may seem. Nonetheless, all Tottenham can do now is the hope they can repeat their performance from April 17th, when they shook the world with an incredible show against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, as this is the only way they can hope to stop the vibrant Netherlands side from reaching the finals for the first time since 1996.
As far as the 1st leg between Tottenham and Ajax goes, the visiting side came onto the pitch with all guns blazing, as they completely dominated the Spurs with spectacular football. While I still find myself dumbfounded Ajax managed to climb that far into the Champions League tournament, the Netherlands side played on an elite level and reminded us all why they deserve to be here. Their passing was exceptional, ball movement, out of this world… it was as if we were looking at a top tier team, which by now, it would be hard to say Ajax isn’t.
With dominant performance from the first minute, Ajax needed only 15 minutes to score the game opener, when van de Beek found himself alone in front of the goal. He took the chance and converted it into 0:1 lead for his team. At that point, it looked like Ajax were determined to win the semi-finals in England, and make the 2nd match only a formality. Nonetheless, Ajax seemed to cool down in the 2nd half. Well, it was either that or Tottenham improved their performance, as they started playing well, or in other words well enough not to concede once again. Despite a clear improvement of the English team, Tottenham overall performance was far from what we would have expected from a team that knocked out Manchester City. On the other side, they could have played significantly worse than they did, when we recall how close Ajax were from scoring for the 2nd time in the 78th minute.
Sadly the main topic of discussion about the fixture in London was the injury of Vertonghen, which now stir up a lot of drama about the concussion protocols in football. For those who missed the injury, Vertonghen was hit in the head in 32nd minute, which left him with a bloody nose. After he changed his kit for a clean one, the medical staff gave him a green light to return to the field, however soon after he stepped back on the field, Vertonghen became unsteady on his feet and had to be escorted off the field. Vertonghen also almost collapsed halfway off the field, which left the football world wondering on how good the concussion protocols are. It was said he passed the tests, but from what we have seen he was not fit to play. Will he appear in the 2nd leg is still unsure, however recent reports suggest Vertonghen should be fit and ready to help his team reach a comeback in Amsterdam.
We can only speculate what we will see in the 2nd leg at Johan Cruyff Arena, but as it seems, Tottenham’ chances of reaching their first European tournament finals are very slim. While they will have Son Heung-min available, Spurs will still miss Harry Kane and possibly Vertonghen. Can they stand up against Ajax without the English captain and key player who helped Tottenham in a great way this season is something we will have to see, however without Kane, Spurs looked severely weakened, especially when it comes to creating chances, which is exactly what they need to do after losing the first leg. Ajax on the other side proved they have got the quality to face off against any other team, and with finals of UCL just 1 fixture away, Ajax are as of now expected to hold on to the lead and defend the score in Amsterdam.