UEFA Champions League Post Match Analysis: Ajax 2-3 Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur stunned Ajax 3-2 at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam in the second leg of UEFA Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday night, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side produced a miraculous turnaround away from home to set up an all-England final with Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on the 1st of June.
It was Liverpool, who defied the odds to stun Barcelona at Anfield last night but Spurs came up with arguably their best ever comeback in European football after being 2-0 down on the night and 3-0 behind on aggregate. Both the team finished with an aggregate scoreline of 3-3 but Spurs progressed to the finals on away goals rule.
Ajax would have felt that they already had a foot on the final when Matthijs de Ligt put them ahead on the night with a towering header just 5 minutes into the game. The hosts looked pumped up in front of a raucous home crowd and did everything to ensure that their fairytale run in the competition continued.
Things got better for Erik Ten Hag’s side when Dusan Tadic set it up brilliantly for Hakim Ziyech to make it 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate midway through the first half. It was all going wrong for Spurs and Ajax were by far the better side in the first forty-five minutes, though the Premier League giants also had a few opportunities of their own.
Trailing 3-0 on aggregate, Tottenham needed nothing short of a miracle to turn things around in the second half and the job looked all the more difficult in the absence of their talismanic striker Harry Kane, who watched on from the sidelines.
Lucas Moura, however, had other ideas, and the Brazilian rose to the occasion to complete a hat-trick in the second half, breaking Ajax’s hearts and setting up a final showdown with Liverpool. It wasn’t only Moura, who put the foot on the accelerator in the second half, but Spurs as a team were absolutely unstoppable, as they sparked off wild celebration amongst the handful of travelling fans from north London.
Although both the teams produced some nail-biting end-to-end stuff on the night, it was a tactical seesaw battle between two world-class managers split into two halves. Let us get a deeper insight into how things went by at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday night.
1. Pochettino’s change of tactics from the first leg defeat
Pochettino came under the spotlight for his questionable tactics in the 1-0 home defeat to Ajax in the first leg. As opposed to the first leg where Spurs went in with a back-three system with two wing-backs, Pochettino was well aware of Ajax’s extravagant pressing in the midfield and he fielded a back four with a midfield diamond this time around.
Spurs had the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in their midfield four but they weren’t able to deal with Ajax’s high press, as the home side showed more desire and determination to press their opposition off the ball. Donny van de Beek and Lasse Schone, in particular, played a very important role for Ajax in the midfield, while, on the other hand, Wanyama looked completely off the pace and visibly lacked the sharpness to deal with opposition’s energetic and aggressive approach.
Ajax won the midfield battle in the first half and as a result of that, they created more clear-cut chances. Spurs, on the other hand, were a bit all over the place, and although the likes of Heuing-min Son, Lucas Moura, Eriksen and Alli all had chances to get shots away on goal, they lacked the clinical edge in their attack.
2. Trippier’s defensive horror show
Kieran Trippier has made the headlines for some high-profile uncharacteristic defensive errors this season and his poor run of form continued. The right-back single-handedly gifted Ajax the opener, as he lost track of de Ligt inside the box and allowed him to head it home off a corner.
Things got bad to worse for Trippier as the game wore on and Dusan Tadic got the better of him numerous times. The England international’s poor positional sense allowed Tadic to run clear through on goal but Spurs survived a scare, as he fired his left-footed shot just wide of Hugo Lloris’s far post.
Trippier, though, didn’t learn from his mistakes and was all over the place in the first half. He was once again caught out of position by Tadic and the Serb raced through the pitch to set up Ziyech for the second goal, though he can share the blame for that with Wanyama, who didn’t make much of an effort to close down the Moroccan.
All in all, it was a defensive horror show from Trippier that led to Spurs’ demise in the first half.
3. Lack of a focal point in Spurs’ attack
Lucas Moura and Son were supposed to play as the two mobile strikers up front with Alli and Eriksen in support but it looked as if neither of the players knew where their actual position was.
Eriksen threaded a lovely through ball for Alli but he scuffed his finish and Son did the same thing when Alli played him into a good position to have a crack on goal. Moura, Son, Alli and Eriksen all had attempts in the first half but Spurs looked a bit disjointed in the final third and they just weren’t able to capitalise on their half-chances.
1. Pochettino’s masterstroke to introduce Fernando Llorente
The lack of a focal point in Spurs’ attack was one of the major reasons behind their undoing and Pochettino responded to the situation by introducing 34-year-old Fernando Llorente. Llorente has scored some crucial goals for the team off the bench but it is his hold-up play, physicality and aerial ability that adds another dimension to Spurs’ attack.
The introduction of Llorente and the consequent withdrawal of Wanyama at half-time meant that the Spaniard was going to operate as the focal point of the attack with Moura and Son playing on either side of him. Alli played as the supporting striker, while Eriksen dropped down to join Sissoko in a more withdrawn role.
The introduction of Llorente reinstated a sense of organisation and discipline in the attack and the Spaniard went on to play a key role without getting his name of the scoresheet. It was his blocked effort from close range that led to the scramble inside the box and Moura’s second goal, while the veteran showed some delightful link-up play to play a pivotal part in the build-up to the Brazilian’s injury-time winner.
Llorente’s presence helped Spurs improve massively in the attacking third, both in terms of cohesion and link-up play, and he once again proved how important a player he can be in the absence of Kane.
2. Dele Alli’s impact and Lucas Moura’s brilliance
Llorente’s introduction certainly had a positive impact and Spurs came out in the second half with a point to prove, even though they had a near-impossible task in front of them. That, however, wasn’t going to put them off and a dominant spell in the first 15 minutes of the second half brought the tie back to life.
Dele Alli got his act together, and so did Lucas Moura. Alli showed his dancing feet to lay the ball into the path of Moura, who used his pace to beat the defenders and made it 2-1 with a neat finish from the inside of his left foot. Buoyed by the goal, Spurs pushed harder and Moura reacted in time to put the ball into the back of the net after Llorente’s blocked shot led to a chaotic situation inside the box.
In fact, Alli himself had a chance to score early in the first half when Eriksen played him in behind Nicolas Taglifico with a sumptuous lobbed pass, only for Andre Onana to make a wonderful stop.
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Alli was once again in the thick of things when he set up Moura for the winner in stoppage time and Spurs ultimately completed a remarkable comeback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Man City: Preview, Team News, Prediction and more
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Man City: Preview, Team News, Predicted XI and Score Prediction
With Liverpool’s 3-1 triumph over Newcastle United stretching the gap to five points at the top of the table in the Premier League after five rounds of fixtures, Pep Guardiola’s men now turn their attention to the UEFA Champions League.
The reigning English champions are all set to kick start their European campaign with a trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk, an opposition they should be quite familiar with after being drawn together with the Ukrainian heavyweights for the third time in a row.
As a matter of fact, this is the first time in the competition that two teams have been drawn together in the same group for three successive years since Ajax and Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Despite their dominance on the domestic front over the past decade, Man City have failed to conquer the UEFA Champions League and the Cityzens will be hoping to make a strong statement at the biggest stage of it all this time around, having crashed out of the competition in the quarter-finals against Tottenham Hotspur last year.
Drawn along with Shakhtar, Dinamo Zagreb and newcomers Atalanta in Group C, progression to the knockout stages is not expected to be a big problem for City but Pep Guardiola will be hoping for his side to return to winning ways on Matchday 1 after a shock defeat against Norwich this weekend.
To that end, the record books speak very much in favour of the English champions, with City having won three out of their last four European meetings with Shakhtar Donetsk, scoring a total of 12 goals and conceding only twice in those fixtures.
City are the outright favourites to come away with all three points on Matchday 1, although playing in front of a raucous home crowd in a hostile atmosphere in Ukraine could prove to be a challenge for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Aymeric Laporte’s injury continues to be a major headache for Pep Guardiola and it remains to be seen if the manager opts for a makeshift backline after the defensive debacle against Norwich at the weekend.
Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane are both ruled out for the clash and the travelling fans might get to see Guardiola rotating his squad and handing an opportunity to Phil Foden in place of veteran David Silva, who started in the Premier League on Saturday.
Fernandinho hasn’t had too much to do this season but the Brazilian is likely to return to the eleven to face his former club on Wednesday if the manager switches back to his preferred 4-3-3 system.
Summer recruit Joao Cancelo has only played a single minute in the Premier League but he might get a chance to impress Guardiola in the Champions League.
Ederson Moraes, Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Man City
Despite this being an away game for the Cityzens, their immense quality and depth must help them get through this fixture without much trouble.
[Image] Predicted 4-3-3 Liverpool XI to face Napoli – can the Reds begin their Champions League defence with a win
Predicted Liverpool XI to face Napoli in the UEFA Champions League
Liverpool preserved their perfect record in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday, with those three points taking the Reds five points clear of Man City at the top of the standings.
Jurgen Klopp is now set to turn his focus to the UEFA Champions League and the reigning European champions will kick start their campaign with a trip to Napoli on Tuesday night.
Liverpool lost 1-0 away at Napoli in the group stages of the competition last year when they were drawn alongside the Serie A heavyweights, and the Reds will be alive to the possibility of a tough test once again this time around, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side currently in a decent run of form in the Serie A.
Divock Origi twisted his ankle against Newcastle on Saturday and he is likely to be unavailable for the midweek clash, while Alisson Becker (calf), Naby Keita (groin) and Nathaniel Clyne (knee) are all ruled out.
The Spaniard has filled in Alisson’s boots quite well between the sticks and he is likely to continue in that role on Tuesday.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)
The youngster was outsmarted by Jetro Willems on Saturday and he will need to watch his feet against a potent Napoli attack.
Virgil van Dijk (CB)
The Dutchman is an undisputed starter for Liverpool, week in week out, and there are hardly any doubts regarding his selection in the eleven.
Joel Matip (CB)
The Cameroonian international has done a decent job for the Reds at the heart of the defence and he will be expected to continue his good work.
Andrew Robertson (LB)
The Scotsman was at the top of his game in the Premier League this weekend and Liverpool will need him to deliver the goods once again on Tuesday.
The former Monaco man has established himself as one of the mainstays of Liverpool’s midfield, with his ability to break up the play and composure to hold things together indispensable to the Reds.
James Milner (RAM)
The former England international has started only once in the Premier League this term but Klopp is likely to rotate his team on Tuesday and his experience could come in handy on the European stage.
Jordan Henderson (LAM)
Wijnaldum started against Newcastle in the previous outing, so the Englishman could be amongst the starters against the Italian giants.
Sadio Mane (RW)
The Senegalese international is currently in red-hot form after bagging a brace in the Premier League and Liverpool will bank on him to fire on all cylinders against Napoli.
Mo Salah (RW)
The Egyptian wizard is an undisputed starter for Liverpool and he will be keen to start his European campaign on a high.
Roberto Firmino (ST)
The Brazilian came up with a few moments of wizardry to guide the Reds to victory in the previous outing and he continues to be one of the key components of their forward line.
[Image] Predicted 4-2-3-1 Tottenham XI to face Olympiacos – can Spurs start UCL campaign with a win?
Predicted Spurs XI to face Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League
Mauricio Pochettino now turns his attention to the UEFA Champions League, with last year’s finalists set to kick start their European campaign this time around with a trip to Greece to face Olympiacos on Matchday 1.
The Lilywhites find themselves drawn alongside Red Star Belgrade, Bayern Munich and Olympiacos in Group B and Pochettino will know that three points on Matchday 1 could go a long way towards ensuring qualification to the last 16 from what looks like a tricky group on paper.
Olympiacos booked their berth in the group stages of the competition with a victory over FC Krasnodar in the playoffs and they will be looking to outwit Spurs in front of a raucous home crowd on Wednesday.
Pochettino will be without the services of his compatriots Giovani Lo Celso (groin) and Juan Foyth (ankle), while Kyle Walker-Peters and Davinson Sanchez are on the comeback trail from their spells on the sidelines.
With a difficult trip away to Leicester City coming up on Saturday, the manager might rotate his squad and opt for a few fresh faces to start against Olympiacos.
Hugo Lloris (GK)
The Frenchman has been a figure of reliability between the sticks for Spurs this season and there are hardly any questions over his role in goal.
Serge Aurier (RB)
The Ivorian put in a solid all-round performance on his return to the playing eleven against Crystal Palace this weekend and he certainly deserves another start.
Toby Alderweireld (CB)
The Belgian hardly had anything to do in the comprehensive 4-0 victory over Palace but he has to be at the top of his game to cope with a potent Olympiacos attack.
Jan Vertonghen (CB)
Sanchez was not even in the matchday squad for the Premier League game against Palace and the veteran might continue alongside his compatriot at the heart of the defence.
Ben Davies (LB)
The Welshman is yet to start a Premier League game this term but Pochettino might want to give Danny Rose a bit of a breather for the midweek clash.
Tanguy Ndombele (CDM)
The club-record signing came on as a substitute in the Premier League on Saturday but he is likely to be in line for a starting role in the Champions League.
Moussa Sissoko (CDM)
The Frenchman has established himself as one of the mainstays of Tottenham’s midfield over the past twelve months and his work rate and well-rounded attributes are indispensable to the team.
Heung-min Son (LW)
He returned to form with a brace against Palace and Spurs will need him to make a big impact once again on Wednesday.
Dele Alli (RW)
The Englishman didn’t come off the bench in the Premier League victory over Palace but he is likely to be amongst the starters for this one.
Christian Eriksen (CAM)
Spurs will once again rely on their influential playmaker to pull the strings from a No.10 role and he has so often proven himself to be the difference-maker for the Lilywhites.
Harry Kane (ST)
Spurs will need their indispensable weapon in the final third to fire on all cylinders if they are to come away with a positive result from the trip to Greece.
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