Champions League REVISITED
Ajax 3-3 Bayern Munich [Champions League Group E, 2018]
Although Ajax have a strong tradition in the Champions League, nearly everyone was surprised at their results in last season’s competition. After knocking out both Real Madrid and Juventus, Erik ten Hag’s side eventually lost to Tottenham Hotspur just one step from the final in Madrid.
There were some excellent performances throughout the season but there were signs that this was a special group of players earlier on in the campaign – and the final group match against Bayern Munich is a good example.
Both sides went into the game knowing that they had already qualified for the knockout rounds. But with finishing second in the group meaning a potentially trickier tie against a top seed in the next round – the pressure was on.
Ajax started brightly as usual – but it was Bayern Munich who opened the scoring. After a frantic start to the game, Robert Lewandowski latched onto a through ball from Serge Gnabry to beat the onrushing Andre Onana to record his seventh Champions League goal of the season.
But, as was the case throughout last season, Ajax responded well and took the game to the German champions. The half-time whistle blew with the score still 1-0 to the visitors – yet there was plenty more excitement to come in the second 45 minutes.
Ajax came out just as positively in the second half and were rewarded just after the hour mark when Dusan Tadic eased the ball home after some excellent build up play from the hosts – and a low cross from the energetic Donny van der Beek.
With the tension increased at the Johan Cruyff Arena both teams were then reduced to ten men. First Ajax’s Maximilian Wober was dismissed for a nasty challenge on Leon Goretzka, before Thomas Muller received a red card for a wild head-high lunge at Nicolas Tagliafico.
There was no easing off in the pace of the game however and Ajax were repaid for their pressure when Tadic was able to get his second of the night from the spot after a poorly timed challenge by Jerome Boateng. But there was still more excitement to come.
With just three minutes on the clock Bayern were also awarded a penalty and Lewandowski coolly slotted home after a stuttering run up to level the score. When Kingsley Coman calmly placed the ball past Onana from the edge of the box in the final minute it seemed as though Bayern had snatched an undeserving victory.
But there was still time for more drama as Ajax equalized in the fifth minute of injury time. A shot from the edge of the box ricocheted into the path of the Ajax attack and a cross was bundled home by the unfortunate Niklas Sule who could only put the ball into his own net under pressure. It wouldn’t be the last time Ajax lit up the Champions League in 2018-19.