Ajax stumble, Benfica win in Champions League qualifiers

Benfica beat Fenerbahçe 1-0 in their Champions League qualifying match. (Reuters pic)

LONDON: Standard Liège fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Ajax Amsterdam, while Benfica edged Fenerbahçe 1-0 in Champions League third qualifying round, first-leg ties on Tuesday.

After going in 2-0 down at halftime, Medhi Carcela pulled one back for Liège before Renaud Emond scored a 94th-minute penalty to equalise after Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Dušan Tadić put the four-time Dutch European Cup winners ahead.

Visitors Ajax had looked comfortable after former Southampton winger Tadić set up the first goal with a swerving cross before drilling home the second himself.

However, Belgian side Liège clawed their way back into the game, and Emond struck the woodwork before slotting home from the spot after Noussair Mazraoui fouled substitute Moussa Djenepo.

The winners of the tie in Amsterdam next week will face either Slavia Prague or Dynamo Kyiv in the playoff round for a place in the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition.

Those teams drew 1-1 in the Czech capital after Josef Hušbauer’s 95th minute penalty for a dominant Slavia cancelled out Benjamin Verbič’s 82nd minute opener.

In Lisbon, Benfica earned a narrow victory in a match they controlled as Franco Cervi’s deflected strike after 69 minutes handed them the advantage over Fenerbahçe, with both teams entering in this round of the qualifying process.

When the teams played in the European Cup first round in 1975, Benfica won 7-0, but this time the Turkish side can hope to stage a second-leg comeback to secure a playoff against PAOK or Spartak Moscow, who meet on Wednesday.

Stanislav Drahun’s header earned Belarusians BATE Borisov a 1-0 win at Qarabağ, with the eventual winners facing PSV Eindhoven.

Dinamo Zagreb won 2-0 at Astana, who reached the group stage in 2015, with goals from Mario Budimir and the impressive Dani Olmo to put one foot in the playoffs where Young Boys await.

Elsewhere, Malmö drew 1-1 with Videoton, while Red Star Belgrade were held by Spartak Trnava with the same scoreline.