Match Report: Marseille fight back twice in Amsterdam
Despite trailing twice, goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jonathan Clauss earn Marseille a point.
Ajax kick off Group B by welcoming Marseille to the Johan Cruijff Arena. A game between two sides steeped in European pedigree, with nine European trophies between them.
The Dutch side enter the game sitting 12th in the Eredivisie. They have seen a disappointing start, with just one win among two draws and one loss. Despite criticism faced by supporters, manager Maurice Steijn remains calm, and will not let the words of supporters influence his management.
Marseille arrive into the tie in a difficult situation in their own right. Despite sitting 4th in Ligue 1 with an unbeaten start, they have overseen turbulence with the recent departure of manager Marcelino. Jacques Abardonado took charge of the side on the night, his first managerial appearance at senior level.
The start of the half saw an intense opening, with Azzedine Ounahi and Carlos Borges driving their respective teams forward. Kenneth Taylor was particularly involved, covering ground to win the ball back on multiple occasions in a high-tempo affair.
It was Ajax, however, that broke the deadlock early on. Chancel Mbemba failed to deal with Jay Gorter’s goal-kick, allowing Borges to latch onto the ball in behind. He found himself one-on-one with Pau Lopez, and slotted past the Spanish keeper with his left foot. The 2004 winger claims his first goal for Ajax.
Aubameyang had the chance to put Marseille level in the 18th minute. A combined error between Josip Sutalo and Jorrel Hato gifted the Gabonese striker the ball. However, his lobbed attempt was saved by Gorter.
Just two minutes later, Ajax found themselves two to the good. Borna Sosa’s corner found its way through the Marseille blockade, and Steven Berghuis drilled his shot past Lopez.
Despite this, Marseille clawed back not long after. Amine Harit found Clauss in space, who made out to shoot on his left but chopped back in on his right. The rightback burst into the box, and hammered home across goal into the side netting.
Marseille had grown into the game, and were going forward well with Iliman Ndiaye and Ounahi. Building on their confidence, Aubameyang equalised for Les Olympiens in the 38th minute. After peeling away from Hato, Harit found him on Sosa’s blind-side, and fired home at Gorter’s near post at full-stretch.
Both sides had the chance to go ahead before the break, with chances coming from Valentin Rongier and Steven Bergwijn. However, the teams went into the break on even terms.
The second interval began with both sides clearly aiming to put themselves ahead. Borges and Harit both had attempts to weave into the box, although their runs were blocked on both occasions.
Ajax sustained their pressure, with Borges playing Brian Brobbey down the right channel, and the striker shooting wide from a tight angle. Borges was involved again a minute later, as he was able to pull the ball back into the box. Taylor latched onto the delivery, with the midfielder finally able to convert after squandering a host of chances in the first half.
The Dutch side looked dominant for the majority of the half. Anton Gaaei’s cross glanced past Brobbey, but he recovered the second ball. He interchanged play with Bergwijn, but was closed down by Samuel Gigot before shooting.
Bergwijn came close to finishing the game for Ajax in the 67th minute. Brobbey capitalised on Mbemba’s sloppy possession, running down the right before squaring to the captain, who saw his shot tipped wide.
Once again, however, Marseille grew back into the game. A flurry of chances from Harit and Aubameyang certainly tested the Ajax defence’s resolve, and not before long they had equalised again. Aubameyang cut in on his right foot after being found out wide, and fired his shot past Gorter, who was unable to get a stronger hand to it.
In response, Taylor almost contributed with what could have been an early goal of the season contender. His reception of Sosa’s pass into the box enabled him to flick the ball up for himself, but his volley sailed over the bar.
Substitute Silvano Vos was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in stoppage time. Despite this, Marseille were unable to capitalise, and will leave the Dutch capital with a point to begin their European campaign.
Ajax: Gorter; Gaaei; Sutalo; Hato; Sosa; Tahirovic (Vos 46mins); Berghuis (van den Boomen 85mins); Taylor; Borges (Avila 93mins); Brobbey (Akpom 85mins); Bergwijn (Medic 93mins)
Marseille: Lopez; Clauss; Mbemba; Gigot; Lodi (Balerdi 80mins); Ounahi; Rongier; Kondogbia (Vitinha 65mins); Ndiaye (Veretout 65mins); Aubameyang (Correa 79mins); Harit (Mughe 80mins)