Wednesday's soccer news starts with Ajax advancing to the 2018-19 Champions League semifinals with a 3-2 aggregate win over Juventus. Ajax won 2-1 at Allianz Stadium. After falling behind to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 28th minute, Donny van de Beek equalized in the 34th with Matthijs de Ligt scoring the series winner in the 67th. The result takes one of the favorites out of the tournament, with Ajax now responsible for knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus.
"We should have played a different game, but they deserved it," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "In the second-half we broke up, we often threw the ball away, which favored Ajax with its technique. We tried to have more depth, but with the result that we were less compact. Moreover, we gifted some actions, such as that of the second goal. In a quarterfinal, it cannot be done."
Well, it can. Especially for a team like Juventus with the means and willingness to pay for a squad of its quality. Juventus losing to Ajax should be about nothing but disappointment from their perspective. Real Madrid is in a transitional season due mostly to Ronaldo leaving for Juventus. The disruption he caused at one club should've strengthened the other considerably. Instead, it's Champions League disappointment and unfulfilled ambition for Juventus this season.
Ajax's scenario is already well known. Keeping this team together is already impossible thanks to Barcelona buying Frenkie De Jong and De Ligt either joining him or going to another elite European club. This is a run for the roses from an Ajax perspective, with another offseason of change based on their selling policies. That it will be another Champions League contender benefiting from the work Ajax did to build this squad is what happens at this level. Whether or not it's unfortunate depends on your feelings for those European super clubs.
Barcelona had no issues seeing off Manchester United, winning 3-0 at home and 4-0 on aggregate. Lionel Messi scored in the 16th and 20th minutes with Philippe Coutinho adding a goal in the 61st. Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made three saves to keep the clean sheet.
"We did well to get here and we could see the difference between the two teams," Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. "The quality of finishing was outstanding. We started well for the first 15 minutes and we thought we've got something here, and then in four minutes they scored two goals which made it so hard. The attitude was right. We knew we were fighting against a good team with good players. We know there's work to do. We've said all along that this won't change overnight and the next few years will be massive to get to the level teams like Barcelona are at."
It's hard to think of Manchester United as anything but a super club even in a season where their performances don't match their global prestige. Correcting their course is now a multi-season job, but eventually they'll buy the right set of players. Barcelona is a step ahead in a season where they're now the biggest hurdle for the rest of the Champions League field.
ESPN's James Horncastle explains what Juventus couldn't do against Ajax. The Mirror's Alex Richards looks at what Ajax got right to advance to the Champions League semifinals. The Independent's Jack Pitt-Brooke on Ajax's win.
The NY Times' Rory Smith with Lionel Messi still surprising on the big stage. The Guardian's Barney Ronay has one big takeaway for Manchester United after their Champions League exit to Barcelona. AFP's Thomas Allnutt on the challenge for Solskjaer. BBC Sport has Solskjaer talking about the difference in levels between United and Barcelona.
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Logo courtesy of Ajax