Atalanta Top Ajax in Champions League Group D Big Tie

In the Champions League Group D’s decider, Ajax and Atalanta went head to head to qualify for the last 16 alongside group winners Liverpool.

Ajax went into this crunch decider by starting another potential wonder-kid in the shape of Amsterdam born Brian Brobbey up front with talented midfielder Quincy Promes dropping to the bench after the weekend’s home defeat to Twente.

With no game at the weekend due to the postponement of their match-up with Udinese, La Dea came into the match fresh and raring to go despite the shocking rumors of Gian Piero Gasperini’s potential resignation.

Gasperini set up his side with captain Papu Gomez and Duvan Zapata up front with Josip Illicic dropping to the bench. Rafael Toloi came back to complete the defensive back three with Dutchman Marten De Roon returning to central midfield to add more steel.

The first half ended in deadlock with Ajax struggling to breakdown the disciplined defensive shape of Atalanta. No clear cut chances were fashioned by either side as the magnitude of the tie seemed to stifle any real rhythm or creativity.

At the beginning of the second half, Ajax coach Erik Ten Hag responded by sending on Quincy Promes to bring some speed to his line-up in their search for the crucial opening goal. The flow of the game was still much the same though, with no side finding a way through.

Atalanta defended well and in numbers and Ajax lacked the creative spark to break down the lines in front of them. As the minutes ticked by the side from Bergamo grew in to the game, with Gomez at the hub of all his side’s best work.

In search of a winner, Ajax sent on veteran striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar. The best chance though for the side from Amsterdam fell to Davy Klaasen in the 72nd minute. Lovely build up involving Promes and Dusan Tadic put the midfielder one on one with Pierluigi Gollini. The Dutchman went for power instead of placement and struck it down the middle of the goal where he found the goalkeeper more than equal with the young Italian standing tall and blocking the ball away.

Gasperini brought on Luis Muriel to freshen his sides tiring legs in attack and José Paolmino to shore up midfield. Ryan Gravenberch already on a yellow from the first half was shown a bizarre second yellow for an apparent high foot, although there was no evidence to the contrary.

Ajax threw bodies forward and were caught cold on the break. A poor headed clearance fell to Remo Freuler and the midfielder fed a through ball into the onrushing path of Muriel. Goalkeeper André Onana came forward to meet him and the striker rounded the keeper and rolled it into the empty net to all but seal their qualification for the second year running into the latter stages of Europe’s most prestigious competition.

Atalanta now carry this important win into the weekend when they will face Fiorentina. Ajax are left with a year in the Europa League and will host PEC Zwolle on Saturday as the look to stop their winless streak.



December 9, 2020 – Champions League 2020-21 Group Stage

SCORERS: 85′ Muriel

AJAX (4-3-3): Onana; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Martinez (91′ Timber), Tagliafico (63′ Huntelaar); Klaassen, Labyad (64′ Ekkelenkamp), Gravenberch; Tadic, Brobbey (46′ Promes), Antony (Alvarez, Klaiber, Kotarski, Rensch, Stekelenburg) Coach: Ten Hag
ATALANTA (3-4-1-): Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens (79′ Palomino); Pessina; Gomez, Zapata (78′ Muriel) (Sportiello, Rossi, Depaoli, Ilicic, Lammers, Malinovskyi, Mojica, Panada, Piccini, Ruggeri) Coach: Gasperini
REFEREE: Del Cerro Grande (Spain)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Hateboer, Freuler (At); Red Card: Gravenberch (Aj); Extra Time: First Half 3′, Second Half 4′