Well, that was interesting.
Ajax traveled to North London for their 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinal Leg 1 match against Tottenham Hotspur.
After a shaky first couple of minutes, Ajax started steamrolling Spurs, just as we predicted. At the 15th minute, Donny van de Beek was barely on-side for a perfect through-ball from Hakim Ziyech, delay his shot with a veteran savvy beyond his years causing Hugo Lloris to go to ground early, and buried the shot to put Ajax up 1-0.
After 35 minutes, Ajax (and their fans) were feeling confident, and for good reason.
35 minutes in:— blahblah (@is_footbal) April 30, 2019
Spurs v Ajax
Ball possession 33%\67%
Accurate passes 84/193
I think that we can tell who’s the better team. #TOTAJA
A nasty head injury, a sub, and a totally different game
In the 31st minute, Jan Vertonghen went for an aerial and busted his face open. He was bleeding profusely. After a 4-minute delay, Vertonghen attempted to re-enter play, but couldn’t stay up on his feet and left the game with concussion-like symptoms. It was tough to watch. Moussa Sissoko came on the pitch for him…and almost instantly the tone of the game changed.
Spurs went on the attack, flipping the advantage of possession, passes, and shots on goal.
For 35 minutes, Ajax was the better team in every way. With the injury, Mauricio Pochettino did Mauricio Pochettino tactical things, changing the formation to a 4-4-2 diamond. The fullbacks (Kieran Trippier in particular) got more involved and they overloaded the midfield.
Dele Alli, Lucus Moura and Christian Eriksen in particular were superb in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. While possession FLIPPED to Tottenham 51-49% by the end of the game, and Spurs ended up with more shots on goal (12/1 to 10/2), Ajax white-knuckled to the 1-0 victory.
Ajax now heavy favorites to advance
With an away goal, 1-0 shutout, Ajax find themselves in uncharted territory: they’re heavy favorites.
At one time Ajax was 200-to-1 underdogs to win the Champions League.
Today, they’re +210 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ (tied with Liverpool for second favorite!), taking significant in-game action. Tottenham drop to +1200.
Think about that though for a minute though–about four months ago Ajax was 200/1. They’re now, essentially, 2/1. Wow.
While Ajax is by no means a lock to advance, the away goal is huge, especially with Spurs missing Harry Kane.
They’ll have fresher, younger legs, they’ll be home, and for the first time this Champions League, they’ll be favorites.