- Ajax and Schalke faced each other this evening for the first time ever in a UEFA competition.
- Ajax stormed to their sixth consecutive home win in European competition.
- Fährmann, with ten saves, kept Schalke in the tie.
Having never played each other before in a European competitive fixture these two previous UEFA Cup winners were expected to play out a tightly fought contest. What unfolded was a fantastic attacking performance by Ajax, who as a result take a 2:0 lead to Gelsenkirchen.
Ajax vs Schalke 04 2-0
Goals: 1-0 Klaassen (23′ penalty), 2-0 Klaasen (52′)
It was beginning to look like a bit of a bore draw in Amsterdam until Schöpf made an awkward challenge in the box on 22 minutes, bringing down former Gladbach and Kaiserslautern winger Amin Younes. Whilst many seemed unsure if it was a foul, Russian referee Sergei Karasev had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Davy Klaassen converted and so started wave after wave of Dutch attack. Schalke who had been in relatively good form domestically could not find a foothold. The only German finding his feet was dressed in red and white, and to Schalke’s despair Amin Younes took on the die Königsblauen with ease. All this did was fire up those inside the Amsterdam arena, in scenes normally reserved for a final the home crowd roared every attack on. As half time approached the Royal Blues were hanging on, just, but on the 45th minute Benedikt Höwedes shaped up for a bicycle kick, spectacular looking the execution was just off, and André Onana with a routine save in the de Godenzonen goal brought the first half action to a climax.
The half time break did little to slow the Dutch tempo and the second half started as the first ended with red and white waves. With the second half only seven minutes old Ajax had their second goal of the night. Justin Kluivert, from the right, found an unmarked Klaassen in the box who duly converted by dispatching the ball firmly into the Schalke net. Things were now looking ominous for the Germans’, Ajax had found top gear and they were very much on top. Fährmann, in the Schalke goal took the fight on for the Königsblauen denying Bertrand Traoré twice inside three minutes. Like a punch-drunk boxer, Schalke were on the ropes, and on the ropes they stayed. Fährmann pulled off a number of breath-taking saves that prevented Ajax from killing the tie, and with it he set a Europa League record for the number of saves in a single fixture for the season. It took until added time at the end of 90 minutes for Schalke to even threaten the Ajax goal, a run of corners led to nothing. As the final whistle blew Markus Weinzierl will be thankful that his goalkeeper has given him a chance to turn this fixture around. His opposite number, Peter Bosz, must be worried that with all the chances Ajax had it is only a 2:0 they take to Gelsenkirchen for the return fixture that will take place in seven days.
Ajax vs Schalke 04 – Man of the Match:
Amin Younes was a constant thorn in the Königsblauen side and together with Davy Klaassen they gave Schalke a lesson in attacking football that they will not forget easily. However, was it not for Ralf Fährmann this tie would be over before the second leg. The Schalke goalkeeper pulled off a string of astonishing saves that spared the away side a humiliating result in Amsterdam. It was his heroics that ensured Schalke still have a hope of reaching the Europa League Semi Final. For that to happen the Royal Blues will need 10 other players to match the level of performance and concentration shown this evening by Fährmann.
Ajax vs Schalke 04 – Talking Point:
Sead Kolasinac picked up an injury before the game started and at short notice Dennis Aogo replaced him. It seemed to knock Schalke’s game plan from the offset – they never settled and never recovered from a change so late in the build-up. Having previously demolished Wolfsburg 4:0 on Matchday 27 in the Bundesliga it was expected that Schalke would provide a strong test for the Eredivisie runners-up but in truth they looked out of ideas after 20 minutes. Schalke will need to harness the spirit of the “Eurofighters” if they are to be successful in seven days’ time.
Ajax vs Schalke 04 – Match Stats
- Ajax had 20 attempts on goal versus Schalke’s six, even though they had equal possession – 50% each
- Ralf Fährmann made 11 saves against Ajax – more than any other goalkeeper in this season’s Europa League.
- Schalke only managed 4 touches of the ball in Ajax’s box in the first 45 minutes.
Onana; Veltman, Sánchez, Viergever, Sinkgraven; Ziyech, Van de Beek, Klaassen; Kluivert, Traoré, Younes
Coach: Peter Bosz
Fährmann; Kehrer, Höwedes, Nastasic, Aogo; Goretzka, Bentaleb; Caligiuri, Meyer, Schöpf; Burgstaller
Coach: Markus Weinzierl