The first leg of the semifinals of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League is complete. Barcelona and Ajax are one step closer to reaching the final. Ajax is looking to reaching the final for the first time since 1996. Barcelona is looking to reach the final for the first time since 2015.
Ajax took a 1-0 away win against Tottenham and thus has a 2-0 overall aggregate lead via the away goals rule. Barcelona, on the otherhand, has a commanding 3-0 aggregate having taken a respectable win against Liverpool at home. While Ajax and Barcelona have the odds in their favor, they cannot sleep on their opponent.
Three Takes On The First Leg:
Ajax’s dominance continues;
Having eliminated Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax is showing no signs of slowing down. Despite managing to score just one goal, Ajax played solid defense to deny Tottenham.
Ajax stayed in control by limiting Tottenham to just one shot on target, which is the fewest for Tottenham in a Champions League game. Ajax put an end to Tottenham’s 20-game streak in Champions League play where Tottenham scored a goal.
Tottenham played without Harry Kane due to injury and Son Heung-min who was suspended. Tottenham’s offensive attack struggled and could not get anything going. Ajax always had an answer to thwarting Tottenham’s scoring attempts.
Barcelona played a Messi game;
A game between the dynamic duos of two of the best clubs in Europe; Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane against Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Liverpool came up blank while Barcelona found a way. Suarez scored his first Champions League goal of the season in the 26th minute. Messi had been quiet all game until he doubled his team’s lead in the 75th minute only to triple it seven minutes later.
From time to time, Liverpool would threaten only to come short. With Liverpool becoming increasingly frustrated, Barcelona would remain calm and add the finishing touches of the game at the right time to put it out of reach. Salah and Mane were cornered by Barcelona’s solid defense. This is Liverpool’s heaviest defeat in Champions since 2014. Furthermore, Liverpool has lost more games(four in an eleven-game span) in Champions League play this year than in all other competitions combined.
Messi now has 600 goals for Barcelona. Ironically, he reaches the milestone on the 14-year anniversary of his first goal for the club.
Barcelona is now undefeated in 31 Champions League games, which is the best run in the history of the competition. And Messi is only the second player to score against three English clubs in the same Champions League tournament. Furthermore, he has 26 goals in 33 appearances against English clubs in Champions League play.
Ajax’s starting lineup currently has an average age of close to 25 years, which is of the youngest of any semifinalist in the Champions League in the last six years. Also, Ajax has scored in nine straight Champions League road games for the first time in club history.
Ajax’s Donny van de Beek is the club’s third youngest player(22 years and 12 days) to score in a semifinal game in the Champions League. And finally, Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt is the youngest player to captain a team in the Champions League semifinals.
The crowning of the 2018/19 Champions League finalists takes place next week. Ajax is eager to keep their Cinderella run alive. Barcelona is hungry to prove that they’re still capable of winning the big one.