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Benfica dumps out Ajax in the UEFA Champions League

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Ajax 0 1 Benfica
| PHOTO: Getty Images |
  • Benfica booked their place in the Champions League last-eight after knocking out Ajax in the last-16
  • Benfica won 1-0 in the second-leg at Amsterdam after a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Portugal.
  • Darwin Nunez scored the only goal in the match, a header in the 77th minute to send Ajax home

Benfica knocked out Netherlands giants Ajax in the UEFA Champions League thanks to a 1-0 second-leg victory in Amsterdam.

Darwin Nunez headed a late winner as Benfica secured their place in the last-eight of the UEFA Champions League despite being the second favourite in the clash.

A 2-2 draw in the first leg in Lisbon had left the contest finely poised, and Erik ten Hag’s home side dictated from the outset at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Tuesday.

However, Benfica struck decisively in the 77th minute when Nunez powered in the Portuguese visitors’ first attempt on target to send Nelson Verissimo’s side through.

Ajax vs Benfica: Darwin Nunez

Benfica players celebrate after Darwin Nunez scored against Ajax in the UEFA Champions League clash at Johan Cruyff Arena on Tuesday, March 15 2022. | PHOTO: Getty Images |

Benfica will now wait to find out the identity of their opponents in the last-eight draw on Friday, with the two-leg clashes set to take place across early April.

Ajax dominated the opening exchanges, and Sebastien Haller turned home after just seven minutes, but a belated offside flag against Dusan Tadic cut short the celebrations.

Antony tested Odisseas Vlachodimos from range, and Ryan Gravenberch saw a fizzing strike tipped over as Ten Hag’s players continued traditionally but without reward before the break.

Tadic skewed off target as Ajax picked up where they left off after the interval before an unmarked Jan Vertonghen offered the hosts a scare as he headed wide from a presentable chance.

Antony almost broke the deadlock, but his headed effort narrowly missed the top-left corner, and Ajax’s failure to convert proved costly with 13 minutes remaining.

Nunez towered above goalkeeper Andre Onana to meet Alex Grimaldo’s inswinging free-kick from the right flank. He clinically headed into the left corner, dramatically snatching the spoils for Benfica.

Benfica twice fell behind in the first leg and once again found themselves with their backs against the wall in Amsterdam, managing just 31.4 per cent of possession.

But a spirited defensive performance, coupled with Ajax’s lack of clinical finishing, ensured Verissimo’s side made it through to the Champions League’s last eight for the first time since the 2015-16 season and just the fourth occasion in the 21st century.

Vertonghen was a part of the Tottenham side that reached the 2018-19 Champions League final, beating Ten Hag’s Ajax in the semi-final thanks to late Lucas Moura’s heroics.

The centre-back once again thwarted the Dutch outfit as he managed a game-high ten clearances and won an impressive five of his eight duels.

The evergreen Tadic has been a menace for any opposition defence in his outings for Ajax this season, and this game was no different as he created a game-leading five chances.

Indeed, only Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior has laid on as many opportunities (24) in the Champions League this campaign as the Ajax man, but Tadic’s efforts ultimately proved in vain.

Ajax returns to Eredivisie action in a tough clash at home to Feyenoord on Sunday, while Benfica host Estoril on the same day.

Nathan Sialah is a journalist by profession with interest in politics, sports, cryptocurrency and human interests with 5 years experience in Radio and Digital Journalism. This has helped Sialah develop a responsible approach to any task he undertakes or any situation that he is presented with.

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