Ajax are back in the Champions League group stages after a 2-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia.

With Donny van de Beek and Noussair Mazraoui missing the second leg, Erik ten Hag decided to make several changes to his side. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Sergino Dest and Edson Alvarez all started. Daley Blind dropped back into the centre of defence, while Lisandro Martinez stepped into midfield.

APOEL Nicosia’s gameplan was to frustrate the hosts and that worked well in the opening half hour. Ajax dominated possession but couldn’t find space in the APOEL box. Half chances fell to Hakim Ziyech and Dusan Tadic but they were wasted.

Eventually, in the 43rd minute, Ajax broke the deadlock as Alvarez met Ziyech’s free-kick unmarked to head the hosts in front.

Four minutes into the second half, Ajax thought they were 2-0 ahead. Nicolas Tagliafico’s header across the box wasn’t dealt with and Huntelaar steamed in to head the ball over the line via the crossbar. However, VAR spotted that Joel Veltman’s foot was offside when the free-kick was played into the box so the goal was disallowed.

Immediately after the disallowed goal, APOEL gave Ajax a big scare when POEL striker Andrija Pavlovic headed in a free-kick. However, the goal was chalked off for offside.

APOEL goalkeeper Vid Belec then kept his side in the game with good saves to deny Ziyech and then Huntelaar.

Just as nerves were beginning to show in the Johan Cruyff ArenA, Dusan Tadic netted Ajax’s second with ten minutes to go. Huntelaar found the winger with an excellent cross field pass, and the Serbian breezed past his marker before firing past Belec.

Ajax then smelled blood but a third goal never came as the hosts comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to seal their Champions League spot.

On Thursday, the group stage draw is made with Ajax sitting in pot 2.

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