Ajax – AEK Athens: Ajax celebrate return to Champions League with second half demolition of Greek champions (3-0)
AEK Athens was able to frustrate Ajax in the Johan Cruijff ArenA for exactly one half. After a quick opening goal after half-time, Ajax showed its abilities against an AEK that might not be a Champions League worthy opponent.
Ajax had some demons to shake off tonight. The past four years were rough, from a result-based point of view. PSV (three times) and Feyenoord (once) won the last four Eredivisie titles. Four years without a domestic championship will bring some pressure in Amsterdam.
And, even though the Cinderella run in the Europa League of 2016/2017 under the guidance of Peter Bosz provided some unexpected international cachet, the performances on the highest European stage were even more disappointing than the domestic ones, with Ajax missing out on group stage qualification of the Champions League three years straight.
And so, director of football Marc Overmars did something he was so averse to in the earlier years of his tenure: he spent money. And lots of it. The high profile signings of Daley Blind and Dušan Tadić, combined with the retention of all the biggest young talents in the squad, were meant as a clear signal of urgency towards Ajax’ fans.
AEK Athens’ situation can be described as the polar opposite. Last season, AEK won its first domestic title in fourteen years. And in doing so, they saw most of their best players leave. With the departure of center-back Ognjen Vranjes (Anderlecht), midfielder Jakob Johansson (Rennes), creative winger Lazaros Cristodoulopoulos (Olympiakos) and striker Sergio Araujo (back to Las Palmas), each part of AEK’s formation was weakened this summer.
There was not much need for Ajax’ manager Erik ten Hag to . . .