Goals from Thulani Serero and Danny Hoesen gave 10-man Ajax a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions League this evening.
The Blaugrana welcomed back Carles Puyol and Xavi for their trip to Amsterdam, as they went into the match knowing that a win would guarantee them top spot in Group H. Also at the back, Javier Mascherano replaced Marc Bartra from the team that beat Granada at the weekend, whilst Alex Song came in for Sergio Busquets. In form Alexis Sanchez missed out though, with Cesc Fabregas playing the false nine role.
The Dutch team came into the game however, knowing that it was win or bust for their European dreams, and as such they rocketed out of the blocks, pressing Barca right from the off.
It may have taken 15 minutes, but the Catalan club eventually asserted their dominance on the ball, and almost broke the deadlock – Pedro’s cross though, couldn’t find Cesc or Neymar inside the area for a tap in.
A monopoly of the ball meant nothing however as with 19 minutes gone a cross from Davy Klaassen on the right found Serero inside the six yard box, and the young South African tapped in past Pinto.
Frank de Boer’s men were growing in confidence and making the visitors look distinctly average. Their passing was crisp and their movement was swift, and it almost led to a second, only for Lasse Schone to fire over from the edge of the area.
Daley Blind and Nicolai Boilesen were having superb games on the right and left-hand sides, respectively, but the Eredivisie team couldn’t get the second goal their overall play would have deserved.
All that pressure eventually told though with three minutes of the half remaining as Hoesen challenged Puyol in the area, came away with the ball, and slotted past Pinto into the bottom corner.
After the break, the home team got off to the worst possible start as Joe Veltman was given a straight red card within the first three minutes for a foul on Neymar. With the tackle inside the area as well, Xavi converted from the penalty spot to put Barca back in the game.
That extra man completely changed the flow of the match, with Tata Martino’s side now looking like their usual selves. The Amsterdam Arena team however, held strong, with goalkeeper Jasper Cilessen making saves from Neymar and Andres Iniesta.
Against all the odds, Ajax held out for a famous win, and condemned Martino to his first loss as Barcelona Coach.
Ajax 2-1 Barcelona
Scorers: Serero 19 (A), Hoesen 43 (A); Xavi pen 48 (B)
Ajax: Cillessen; Van Rhijn, Veltman, Moisander, Boilesen (Poulsen 35); Klaassen, Blind, Serero; Schöne (Denswil 51), Hoesen (Duarte 84), Fischer
Barcelona: Pinto; Puyol (Patric 69), Pique, Mascherano, Montoya; Xavi (Roberto 74), Song, Iniesta; Pedro, Cesc (Adama 82), Neymar
Red card: Veltman 47 (A)