Ten-man Ajax struggled to a 0-0 draw at APOEL Nicosia in the first-leg of their Champions League playoff.

Ajax headed to Cyprus looking to take a big step towards the Champions League group stages. Erik ten Hag was able to name both Noussair Mazraoui and Hakim Ziyech in the starting line-up, while Ravzan Marin stayed in midfield.

Ajax dominated the opening stages and APOEL goalkeeper Vid Belec had to palm away a Ziyech cross. Donny van de Beek then broke through but his pass didn’t reach a waiting Ziyech. Daley Blind, Dusan Tadic and Ziyech all went close in the opening 15 minutes but an opening goal did not come.

The home side then grew into the game and Ajax began to struggle defensively with Mazraoui, Joel Veltman and Marin all booked for silly challenges.

APOEL winger Musa Al-Taamari got the best chance of the game around the half-hour mark when he burst through on goal but with just Andre Onana to beat he fired wide.

Ajax got a massive chance early in the second half when Veltman played Donny van de Beek in on goal but the midfielder slipped and shot over the bar.

APOEL then took control again and came close to an opening goal on several occasions. Veltman had to make a goal line clearance before Giorgos Merkis hit the crossbar with a header. Al-Taamari caused Ajax’s full-back’s all sorts of issues but he fired a good chance into the side netting after some awful defending by Marin.

Ten Hag finally took Marin off just after an hour for Sergino Dest, which meant Mazraoui moved into midfield. The change didn’t help Ajax and Onana had to make an excellent save to deny Lucas Souza.

Ajax’s evening then took another turn for the worse as Mazraoui was shown his second yellow card for an idiotic foul on former NAC Breda midfielder Uros Matic.

Despite having ten men, the best chance of the final ten minutes fell to Ajax when substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar found himself in on goal. The striker lifted the ball over Belec but his finish lacked power and was cleared by a waiting APOEL defender.

Based on their performance, Ajax will be happy to escape Cyprus with a 0-0 draw and they will now look to finish the job in Amsterdam next Wednesday.




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