Ajax secure victory in Giuseppe Meazza.Ajax caretaker manager Frank de Boer got his time in charge at the Amsterdam Arena off to an ideal start with a 2-0 Champions League victory over Milan this evening.
Superb second half strikes from Demy de Zeeuw and Toby Alderweireld were enough to secure third place in Group G and thereby ensure that Ajax and not Auxerre would drop into the Europa League.
The fact Ajax were in need of a result to ensure Europa League qualification was evident in the first half as their greater need drove them on against a more relaxed Milan.
Miralem Sulejmani was deployed on the right of a front three by caretaker boss Frank de Boer and looked in the mood to score during the early stages.
Two minutes in, the Serbian wide-man picked out Luis Suarez’s darting run with a perfectly weighted slide-rule pass which allowed the Uruguayan to unleash a powerful angled drive, but Marco Amelia was alive to the danger and pushed the ball wide at his left-hand post.
Then, in the 11th minute, Sulejmani forced Amelia into an almost identical save when he picked up a loose ball and fired an effort towards goal from the edge of the box.
Ajax were the much hungrier side and Gregory van der Wiel and Demy de Zeeuw both sent long-range efforts wide of goal as they stepped up their efforts to break the deadlock.
It was at this stage that the visitors Danish wonder-kid Christian Eriksen began to demonstrate his undoubted potential.
The 18-year-old worked space for a shot on the edge of the box with some tidy footwork and then whipped a fantastic shot towards the postage stamp top corner on the half hour mark. But Amelia was proving unbeatable in the Rossoneri goal as he flew to his left to flip the ball over the bar.
The Dane almost profited when Alderweireld marauded forward and fed him 25 yards from goal, but Amelia dropped to his left to smother his low, side-footed effort and thwart him for a second time.
Milan finally awoke from their slumber in the final ten minutes of the half. Ronaldinho had a header comfortably saved by Maarten Skelenberg in the 37th minute, and then Thiago Silva tried his luck from 35 yards. However, this failed to stretch the Ajax number one either and the sides went in level at the break despite Milan’s late pressure.
Yet, despite Milan’s mini-resurgence, it was Ajax who started the second half the brightest. Sulejmani had a superb opportunity to open the scoring just two minutes after the restart but after knocking the ball past the onrushing Amelia, he decided to take a dive and was cautioned for simulation.
Amelia denied Suarez with a strong, two-handed save one minute later and then caught a Sulejmani drive as Ajax continued to turn the screw.
An Ajax goal seemed inevitable and so it proved as they opened the scoring in the 57th minute when de Zeeuw rifled a low shot past Amelia after the ball had broken perfectly for him on the edge of the box.
Alderweireld made it 2-0 in the 66th minute. The Belgian defender strode onto Suarez’s pass and gave Amelia no chance with a thunderous strike which flew into the net from 25 yards.
Massimiliano Allegri brought on former Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 63rd minute in a bid to find a way back into the match.
And the Swede appeared to be energised by the fact he was facing his old side. He came close to scoring on three separate occasions. First, Stekelenburg stuck out a leg to make an unorthodox but effective save to block his low strike from an acute angle. Then he dropped to grasp a weak side-footed effort in the 77th minute.
The Ajax custodian could have done little about his third and final chance but fortunately for him, Ibrahimovic’s overhead kick flashed over the crossbar.
Milan’s night was summed up in the fourth minute of injury time when Ronaldinho sent a wild shot flying high over the crossbar - but tonight was all about de Boer and Ajax.
The Rossoneri will find out who they will face in the round of 16 when the draw is made on December 17. They will then return to Champions League action when the competition resumes in February next year. Ajax, meanwhile, will learn their Europa League fate on the same day and also return to continental action in February.Keep up to date with all the latest Champions League news with Goal.com and join Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page!