Ajax have qualified for the Champions League play-off round after a 2-1 win in Greece on Wednesday saw them beat PAOK 3-2 on aggregate.

AJAX PAOKPeter Bosz decided to experiment with his line-up for the crucial tie and started with five defenders as he looked to shore up at the back. However, from the start the Ajax defence was far from secure and was breached in the first four minutes. Jasper Cillessen palmed a harmless shot wide for a corner, and the resulting cross wasn’t dealt with by debutante Heiko Westermann, which allowed Stefanos Athanasiadis to ghost in at the back post and bundle the ball in.

PAOK continued to find space in behind the Ajax back four on the counter and Athanasiadis twice found himself one one one with Cillessen in the space of a few minutes, but couldn’t beat the Netherlands number one. Ajax threatened little, but Mateo Cassierra worked himself a chance in the box, but couldn’t stab the ball into the net. Just before the half time whistle PAOK handed Ajax their way back into the game with Nick Viergever pulled down in the box and Davy Klaassen slammed the resulting penalty into the net.

PAOK were the most threatening side in the second half, with Rodrigues coming close early on before the crossbar came to the rescue to deny substitute Ioannis Mystakidis after some shocking defending from Ajax. The game was headed for extra time but with three minutes to go the ball dropped to Klaassen in the PAOK box and the Ajax captain slammed a strike into the bottom corner to ensure his side’s hopes of reaching the group stage stay alive.

Ajax await Friday’s play-off draw to find out their opponents, but whoever the club draw there will need to be a big improvement in performance if they have any chance of reaching the group stage.

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