Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Ajax 1-1 Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo opener cancelled out by David Neres
Last Updated: 11/04/19 6:23am
Ajax missed the chance to take a first-leg lead in their Champions League quarter-final with Juventus, drawing 1-1 at the Johan Cruyff Arena despite dominating the Serie A leaders.
Having shocked Real Madrid in the last-16, Ajax showed it was no fluke with a high-octane, high-pressing and high-quality performance. They were easily the better side before half-time only to fall behind to Cristiano Ronaldo's 45th-minute header, his 125th Champions League goal.
But they responded inside 30 seconds of the second half when David Neres caught Joao Cancelo in possession and raced into the area, before firing a powerful low effort into the far corner.
With time running out Champions League debutant Jurgen Ekkelenkamp forced Wojciech Szczesny into a full-length save, while Douglas Costa rattled the post at the other end, but the tie ended finely balanced ahead of the return leg at the Allianz Stadium next Tuesday.
The scoreline did not tell the full story in Amsterdam, and Ajax may be left to rue failing to turn their dominance into further goals when they visit Turin, where Juventus have lost only four times in Europe in the last 15 years.
Ajax: Onana (6), Veltman (7), De Ligt (8), Blind (7), Tagliafico (8), Schone (6), De Jong (6), Ziyech (7), Van den Beek (7), Neres (8), Tadic (7).
Subs: Ekkelenkamp (6).
Juventus: Szczesny (7), Cancelo (6), Bonucci (6), Rugani (6), Alex Sandro (6), Bentancur (7), Pjanic (5), Matuidi (6), Bernardeschi (6), Mandzukic (5), Ronaldo (6).
Subs: Douglas Costa (7), Dybala (6), Khedira (n/a).
Man of the match: David Neres
The visitors were well aware of the growing reputation of Erik ten Hag's side to press, harry and punish, and they looked to extinguish their youthful exuberance from the off with Federico Bernadeschi firing just over inside the opening minute.
But soon Ajax were into full flow, pinning their Italian opponents back and restricting their often devastating counter-attacking style, with Cristiano Ronaldo a passenger for much of the opening period.
Instead, the hosts came into their own with Donny van de Beek inches away from finding the far corner on the turn after letting the ball run across him.
But on the stroke of half-time, Ronaldo showed the ruthless touch he has possessed for so many years as Juventus enjoyed a rare counter-attack.
He set Cancelo away on the right and the full-back raced forward, before looking up and spotting a late run from the forward, who was totally unmarked to head past Andre Onana for the opener.
Ajax's response was rapid, with less than 30 seconds of the second half on the clock before they pulled themselves level.
Ajax were without the suspended Noussair Mazraoui, and made Joel Veltman the only change from their 4-1 win in Madrid last month.
Juventus welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo after a month out with injury, and recalled Joao Cancelo from their weekend win over Milan.
The hosts kept possession from kick-off, eventually playing it back to Onana whose long pass was intercepted by Cancelo. But his heavy touch allowed Neres to rob him and he outpaced the defender, before turning inside and firing powerfully into the far corner.
Ajax's high-intensity pressing continued as they overloaded attacking areas, but their final ball was not quite cute enough to create any more clear-cut chances.
Substitute Ekkelenkamp almost enjoyed a perfect European debut five days after his 19th birthday but was denied by Szczesny on the turn, before Costa nearly broke Ajax hearts when rattling the post after beating Joel Veltman with a wonderful piece of skill.
But Ajax were forced to settle for a first-leg draw as they showed once again their capability to mix it with Europe's best clubs on the biggest stage of them all.