AFC Ajax: Soccer’s True Underdog Story

Ajax’s run to the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final has been nothing short of inspiring. Opening with 250/1 odds to win the Champions League, Ajax stood little to no chance competing against some of the premier Europian clubs. But now Ajax is just 90 minutes away from advancing to the Champions League Final for the first time since 1995.

Ajax were projected to be eliminated in the Group Stage competing against historically dominant clubs such as Bayern Munich and Benfica, however, Ajax prevailed by going undefeated and advancing to the Round of 16.

In the Round of 16, they faced Real Madrid who were crowned champions four out of the last five seasons. After losing the first leg 2-1 in Amsterdam, the fans and press gave Ajax no chance of advancing. However, that didn’t stop them from putting in a world-class performance in Madrid. On March 5th, Ajax shocked the soccer world by defeating the defending champions Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate and advancing to the Quarterfinals.

In the Quarterfinals, Ajax faced a prominent Juventus side, led by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. In the opening match, Ajax and Juventus tied 1-1 setting up an exciting second leg. Once again, against all odds, Ajax advanced to the Semi-Final by defeating Juventus 3-2 on aggregate. This victory sealed the Dutch side’s first Semi-Final appearance since 1997. “It’s an unforgettable night for Ajax, we eliminated one of the favorites for the competition,” Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said. “We played with confidence and patience. With our footballing philosophy we can go beyond expectation, we have once again surpassed our limits. It’s very difficult to play against us and our philosophy.”

Ajax fans celebrate the victory over Juventus and a berth to the Champions League Semi-Final for the first time since 1995.

Now wait a minute, what is it that makes this Ajax side so talented?

Ajax’s ability to move the ball quickly and efficiently has allowed them to dictate games from the start to finish. In addition, their unique high press has put constant pressure on the opponents back-line, forcing them to make countless mistakes. The high press was imminent in both the Real Madrid and Juventus matches as Ajax scored six of their eight goals off of the counter-attack.

Ajax’s starting lineup throughout the Champions League and Eredivisie season.

In addition, Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs de Ligt have led the way and risen to the occasion time after time this season. The two young stars, both under the age of 21, have performed to the level that top European clubs are preparing to sign these youngsters this Summer. Frenkie de Jong will join Barcelona on a five-year contract worth around 97 million dollars this summer. Matthijs De Ligt, the 19-year-old captain and 2018 Golden Boy winner, is being linked to Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, and Tottenham.

Ajax maintains a dangerous attack with wingers David Neres and Hakim Ziyech. These two at any given point can make an incredible run or through ball to spark the attack. They have heavily impacted Ajax’s cinderella run in the Champions League and are being linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Arsenal. Dusan Tadic has been exceptional as well this season tallying an impressive 34 goals and 21 assists in just 51 matches. Daley Blind and Lasse Schöne have been crucial to Ajax’s success with their veteran leadership and consistent quality play.

It is not just the Champions League where Ajax has had their success and demonstrated their impressive form. They are nearing their first Eredivisie league title win since 2014, scoring 106 goals in just 30 league games. Their form is nothing short of incredible, and they are hopeful to add two more trophies to their display case at the end of the season.

Ajax defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Finals. Donny van de Beek opened the scoring in the 15th minute and Ajax held on to come away with a road victory. They faced Tottenham Hotspur today at 3:00 pm at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam. Tottenham, led by stars Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen looked to end Ajax’s magical run and advance to their club’s first ever Champions League Final.

Match Highlights from the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Final between Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur.

Unfortunately for Ajax, Tottenham did just that.

From underdogs to title contenders, Ajax has captured the hearts of soccer fans around the world and were just 90 minutes away from advancing to the Champions League Final. Despite jumping out to an early 2-0 lead (and gaining a 3-goal lead on aggregate) on Tottenham Hotspur by the 35th minute, Lucas Moura pulled a similar trick to Georginio Wijnaldum’s performance for Liverpool a day earlier and netted 2 quick goals in succession, tying the game 2-2 by the 59th minute.

Although Ajax was still clinging to a 3-2 lead on aggregate, with the 6 minutes of extra time coming to a close, the Spurs pulled off a stunning finish—Moura scored his third goal of the match in the 96th. Having scored more away goals, it gave Tottenham the advantage with aggregate tied, 3-3, and sent the Spurs to Madrid.

95:01—the moment pic.twitter.com/f3yHKNWptV— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 8, 2019

Ajax fought until the end, and despite not reaching their final destination in the UCL, what they’ve done this year has been special. Stunning, even. A shame it ended in such heartbreak.

Photo: Marca.com

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