Ajax surged past Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on Tuesday to take a big step toward advancing to the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since the Dutch club reached the semifinals three seasons ago.
A third win from three games gives Ajax a three-point lead in Group C ahead of Dortmund, whose often-unreliable defense couldn’t cope with Ajax’s smart movement off the ball. That led to Dortmund’s heaviest Champions League defeat and Ajax’s biggest win against German opposition since 1973.
“A beautiful night. We played well. I think the fans can go home satisfied tonight,” Ajax midfielder Steven Berghuis told RTL television. After a kickoff delayed slightly by smoke from fans’ pyrotechnics, Ajax needed just 11 minutes to take the lead. The buildup of pressure led to a free kick out wide which Dusan Tadic curled toward goal. It took a deflection off Marco Reus’ head along the way and went down as an own-goal.
Daley Blind made it 2-0 with his first goal in any competition for almost a year, shooting in off the foot of the post after the ball fell to him on the edge of the penalty area following Dortmund players’ bungled attempts to clear.
With Dortmund still struggling to track Ajax players’ movement in attack, the hosts scored a third in the 57th when Brazilian winger Antony cut in from the right flank past the slow-to-react Emre Can and curled the ball inside the far post.
The fourth goal came soon after when Sebastien Haller used his height and strength to hold off Can and Mats Hummels and head in a floated cross for the French striker’s sixth goal in three Champions League games.
“Everything was right this evening,” Ajax coach Eric ten Hag said. “They played really well in possession, but also in defense, pressing together with high intensity.” Dortmund is used to relying on striker Erling Haaland’s talent to make up for its shortcomings at the back in typically high-scoring games in the Bundesliga, but the Norwegian was cut off from the rest of his team for most of the game against Ajax.
Ajax pressed well in midfield to cut the service to Haaland, back in European action after missing the last game against Sporting Lisbon with a muscle injury. One of the few exceptions came on the counter just after halftime when Haaland picked up a long ball from Hummels and hit a shot which goalkeeper Remko Pasveer pushed onto the crossbar.
Dortmund coach Marco Rose said before the game it was “not unrealistic” that the club could expect Haaland to stay rather than pursuing a transfer to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Instead, the game underlined the difficulty Dortmund faces in building a team around Haaland and its other talented young players.
Sporting Lisbon beat Besiktas 4-1 in the other Group C game.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports