Ajax 2-2 Nice
August 3, 2017
THE GYM KNOCKS OUT AJAX!
After a monumental performance, the Gym knocked out Ajax by grabbing a draw (2-2), making them certain to feature in the Champions League play-off and — at the very least — the group stage of the Europa League.
Last season's third place will not be without a follow-up. The Aiglons wrote one of the most beautiful pages in the club's history in the Dutch capital.
The Amsterdam ArenA promised to be a Hell on Earth for Nice, but it was the visitors who proved devillishly difficult for their opponents to handle in the opening 30 minutes before — after 94 seemingly eternal minutes — finding their way to Heaven. In goal, Cardi' quickly proved he was up to the challenge before Souquet darted forward into space, capping a great team move with the opening goal after just three minutes. A solid, robust Eysseric started it in his own half of the pitch, Plea played the go-between. Then Srarfi for Lees-Melou, whose first-time shot on the move was pushed out by Onana, but only to the unerring feet of the Nice number two (3').
In midfield, Seri and Koziello blessed the opening half-hour with their class, reminding everyone that even giants come in small sizes. On the left and through the middle, Eysseric was an ever-willing, highly-capable outlet, while Plea was tireless up front. Still, a second goal would not come, despite opportunities. Plea dragged a shot across goal in the first 15 minutes, Srarfi was brought down by Sanchez, who received a yellow card for his troubles, en route to goal before then pulling a shot wide (24').
Initially ruffled, Ajax straightened themselves out, and rode out the storm. Then, they got a stroke of luck, one that helped them equalise. Lees-Melou was trying to find Seri, but Ajax claimed possession. Ziyech found Van de Beek, who repeated his feat of scoring in the first leg with a superb right-foot shot after a sublime first touch (34') to equalise. That heralded ten minutes of intense Ajax pressure, and they might have taken the lead shortly before the break. Charging forward, the hosts were only thwarted by Cardinale, who was then fortunate to see his clearance strike Viergever and fly just wide of the target. That was a let-off…
But there was no time to catch breath. As soon as the second half started, Ajax again pushed. Dolberg headed a Ziyech cross wide, largely due to the close attentions of Dante, before Van de Beek's brilliant volley was pushed away by a flying Cardinale (49'). Justin Kluivert, all but unplayable on the right, shot wide (50'), Lasse Schöne fired over the bar (52'), while Max Le Marchand's slight touch on a cross destined for Viergever was just enough (55'). Still, Nice couldn't hold out, and Ziyech crossed for Viergever to touch back for Sanchez, and he did not miss (59').
Having gone in front, the Dutch club took their foot off the gas. Eysseric, moved into a playmaker role in a 4-2-3-1 by Lucien Favre at the break in place of Srarfi, sent a looping shot goalwards the revived hope. Ajax were still dangerous on the break, but Nice were in the ascendancy. Dalbert shot and Lees-Melou was only narrowly shut out as the visitors menaced their hosts' slender advantage.
Seri's brilliance provoked a consequence to those threats. The Ivory Coast international, picked out in the box, produced an inspired backheel that no-one expected…with the Ajax defence caught off guard, Vincent Marcel, who scored twice in pre-season, fired home with his right foot (81').
The game and the tie could have been killed off many times in the closing minutes, but the scoreline was enough for Nice, who head home with the feeling of having achieved something great!
Amsterdam, Amsterdam ArenA
Ajax 2-2 OGC Nice (1-1)
Champions League third qualifying round - 02/08/2017
Attendance: c. 52 000
Referee: Andre Marriner
Goals: Van de Beek (26'), Sanchez (57') for Ajax ; Souquet (3'), Marcel (80') for Nice
Bookings: Sanchez (10'), Ziyech (22') for Ajax ; Sarr (18'), Koziello (38') for Nice.
Ajax: Onana; Veltman (cap.), Sanchez, De Ligt (Neres 86'), Viergever; Schöne (Huntelaar 81'), Van de Beek, Ziyech; Kluivert (De Jong 79'), Dolberg, Younes.
OGC Nice: Cardinale; Souquet, Dante (cap.), Le Marchand, Sarr (Marcel 69'); Koziello, Seri; Lees-Melou, Srarfi (Dalbert 46'), Eysseric; Plea.