Ajax has to hang on to a hard-fought and somewhat fortuitous draw against Apoel.
According to the match report from ESPN, last years Champions League semi-finalist Ajax, ground out a hard-fought draw against Apoel of Nicosia.
The game was a tight and tense affair, between the European giants from Holland and the footballing minnows from Cyprus.
Ajax has to play a two-legged Champions League playoff game in order to qualify for the group stages of the tournament.
Apoel Nicosia, the Cypriot first division Champions, have already played earlier qualifying rounds to make it this far.
Apparently, they have no intention of giving up the opportunity of reaching the Champions League proper without a fight.
Ajax fielded a strong side, including seven players that played in last years semi-final defeat to Spurs. They are vastly unchanged from last season, with Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong the only two departures of note.
It was a game that appeared early on to be easy pickings for the Dutch Champions. However, it was far from it.
Musa Suleiman, the Apoel forward, caused them all kinds of problems. Almost giving the Cypriots the lead in the first half.
While onetime Manchester United Academy player Nicholas Ioannou saw a first-half effort deflected for a corner.
The second half was much the same. If anything Apoel increased the pressure and pressed for the victory.
But for Ajax keeper Onana, they could have found themselves trailing to a couple of Lucas Souza efforts. Onana parried one effort, and later in the game, made a marvelous one-handed same from Souza too.
In between those efforts, the Dutch side cleared another shot off the goal line.
The team from Nicosia continued to press, then hitting the woodwork, with a header from Andrija Pavlovic.
Jordanian international Suleiman was bound determined to try again and hit the side of the net with his final effort.
If Ajax thought that being overrun and stretched by the Cypriot team was the only problem.
Things got worse when they saw Mazraoui sent off for a second yellow card, after making a clumsy and reckless challenge.
While Ajax still has home-field advantage in the second leg, and are favorites to progress.
Many more performances like that will see them struggle to advance to the later stages like last year.
Apoel will be disappointed to not be taking a lead to Amsterdam, but will no doubt be optimistic if Ajax turns up in the same mood as they did last night.
— APOEL FC (@apoelfcofficial) August 20, 2019