The Allianz Arena can be an intimidating atmosphere especially on Champions League nights where many teams have succumbed to the pressures of playing in such a stadium.
However last night many fans found out Ajax weren’t going to be shoehorn into that unfortunate category. Instead what we witnessed was the opposite as the Dutch giants morphed into the Ajax of 95 as they played without fear and was unlucky not to come away with the three points.
Coach Erik ten Hag deserves credit for the way he set-up his team for they were all about attack. Indeed this was Ajax at its vintage best, combining youth and fast incisive play to unleash a devastating effect on their illustrious opponents.
Critics would say that the Amsterdam giants were fortunate that this was an out of sorts Bayern Munich still finding its feet under newly minted coach Niko Kovac however even they must realise, that the German giants are still way ahead in terms of resources and the fact that they have world-class players in terms of Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer.
Significantly the latter would save the day for the Bavarians as his brilliance and Ajax’s wayward finishing led to the two sides sharing the spoils. But enough about Bayern, let’s shift the limelight to Ajax. Their fans must have feared the worst after they went a goal down under just four minutes.
Older teams may have immediately reverted to damage control but when you are young and dangerous, one definitely has other ideas. Of course leading the charge was the main protagonist Hakim Ziyech as Bayern’s midfielders had a torrid time dealing with his deft trickery and pace.
The Netherlands’ football player of the year wasn’t just the only torn in Bayern’s side as David Neres, Noussair Mazraoui and Dusan Tadic all played their part in adding pressure on Kovac’s shoulders. Tadic and Mazraoui’s combination also led to their team’s equaliser.
While the attackers took the plaudits for Ajax, Matthijs De Ligt was imperious at the heart of defence as he kept Lewandowski at bay. It’s even crazier to think that he is only 19 years of age. But when Daley Blind who is 28 is already considered the grandfather of this team; it goes to show you how age is never a barrier in Amsterdam.
Significantly Ten Hag’s charges will gain a massive boost of confidence from such a result though some regret will seep in that they did not get the win. Nonetheless, Europe will be glad to have Ajax among Europe’s elite as such a historic club have been missed after the hegemonic display of Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid in the competition for so long.
When the draw was made, it was a no-brainer that Bayern will top their Champions League group while leaving the second spot to be fought out among Benfica, Ajax and AEK. However Ajax’s display has thrown the script out of the window adding a twist to the plot, and highlighting why the unpredictability of the Champions League makes it the greatest club football competition ever.