Ajax still full of confidence despite being held at home in Champions League

Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo scores their 1st goal against Ajax Amsterdam. (Reuters pic)

AMSTERDAM: Ajax Amsterdam believe they are still very much alive in the Champions League even though they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Juventus in Wednesday’s first leg of their quarter-final tie.

Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo had given the Italian side a halftime lead only for David Neres to equalise 30 seconds after the restart.

“A 1-1 draw in a home game is not exactly what we were hoping for, but it is still a good result,” said Ajax coach Erik ten Hag.

“The last time we lost 2-1 at home to Real Madrid, so everything is still alive for us.”

Ajax eliminated holders Real in the last 16 with a 4-1 away triumph in the second leg, after being beaten at home, and the Dutch club will be seeking another upset in Turin next Tuesday.

“We have a team with much potential and we are showing that in the Champions League. It’s not for nothing we have made it to the quarter-finals,” added captain Matthijs de Ligt.

“In the return we’ll have to give everything because Juventus are incredibly difficult.”

Ten Hag praised his team’s showing, even though Ajax did not create many clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.

“In a lot of the phases of the game, we were better,” he said. “We were excellent in our transitions onto attack. Juventus found it hard to apply pressure on us because we kept the ball, we were patient and created chances.”

But he conceded the visitors were always going to be dangerous, spurred on by the 34-year-old Ronaldo, who scored a 125th Champions League goal with characteristic brilliance.

“If you make a mistake they are quick to pounce on it. You saw that with the goal of Cristiano Ronaldo. Even if you are running with him and tracking back, he is incredibly quick,” added the Ajax coach.