Ajax advances to Champions League; players, coach delighted
With a 2-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday, Ajax is officially through to the Champions League. Coach Erik ten Hag and the team are delighted. "It feels like doping", Ten Hag said to RTL Nieuws after the match.
The first goal was scored in the first half of the match by Edson Alvarez, with an assist from Hakim Ziyech. The second was scored in the second half by captain Dusan Tadic, with an assist from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Coach Ten Hag is delighted and relieved, especially as his team did not have as much time to prepare as he would have liked. "If I may believe many people, then it went without saying that Ajax would just walk into the Champions League. But we also sold 170 million euros in players", Ten Hag said to the broadcaster. "Due to the short vacations of manly players, we were hardly able to practice. August is the most important month of the season for us. But we could not be ready for this month. Now we can really start building. And we do that with a ticket for the Champions League."
"This is very important to us", Tadic said to Veronica after the match in the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam. "The pressure on us was massive. This type of match is always difficult, but thanks to our fans we are stronger." According to Tadic, teams like APOEL always take a compact strategy against Ajax, and that made the match difficult with the eight position changes in the team and suboptimal conditions on the field. But it turned out well. "It is a beautiful day for us. The victory is nice and very important. I think Ajax belongs in the Champions League."
Hakim Ziyech is also happy to reach the Champions League. "We should always strive for that", he said to NU.nl. "It was sometimes difficult to be patient, but it was a matter of staying calm and sometimes having a bit of luck." Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is relieved, but believes Ajax still has a lot of training to do for success in the Champions League. "I have a good feeling about the game, but one swallow does not a summer make", he said to RTL Nieuws. "We don't have to do the polonaise just yet. But we made it to the Champions League, that's what we did it for and that's the most important thing."
On Thursday evening the Amsterdam team will find out who their first opponent in the group sage of the Champions League will be. The draw is in Monaco at 6:00 p.m.. Ajax is in pot 2 and will therefore face either Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Sjachtar Donetsk, Tottenham Hotspur or Benfica.