Ajax did not want to relive the same scenario as in the first leg. Twice ahead of the scoreboard, the Dutch failed to hold the score against a pugnacious Portuguese team (2-2 in the end). In this round of 16 second leg, they advanced with a status of slight favorite but their defensive difficulties (8 goals conceded in the last 5 games) offered hope to their opponents, who remained on a positive series before kick-off. , evidenced by their two wins and a draw since the first leg. Ajax was counting on the tenure of Onana, back in grace, to stop this bleeding, or on Gravenberch and Haller to undermine a Benfica formation not devoid of respondent, like Rafa Silva and Darwin Núñez .
As expected, the Dutch attack quickly emerged, fueled by a very strong collective in these first minutes. The ball circulated quickly from one side to the other to end up with a first header from Antony (3rd), then a goal denied to Haller for an offside position from Tadic, decisive passer on this action (7th). Also on a corner, Alvarez was dangerous (10th), while Berghuis did not take full advantage of this bad recovery in the axis of Weigl (26th). Benfica suffered but held firm, like its Vertonghen-Otamendi hinge as precious as it is combative. And the more halftime approached, the less Ajax showed consistency in the last 20 meters, despite this new header from Timber (30th) and this distant attempt from Gravenberch (36th).
The defense holds firm, Darwin Núñez concretizes
Those 65% ball possession and 9 shots weren’t enough. After the break, the two teams returned with a change on the Lisbon side: Meïté in place of Taarabt. Despite the contribution of the former Ligue 1 midfielder, the Lancers continued their domination without finding the fault. Tadic’s sequence resulted in a shot off target (49th) and this cross from Blind ended with a bell header from Antony (62nd). The Brazilian winger was also guilty a few moments earlier of an angry gesture against Grimaldo (59th), and Blind just missed offering a ready-made goal to Rafa Silva who left behind his back (65th ). Evidence showing that Ajax did not completely master this particularly tight encounter. Even this big alert in the area between Haller, Tadic and Antony did nothing (73rd).
It must be said that the Águias defended to perfection, failing to display a semblance of ambition in the game. However, we felt they were able to sting at any time thanks to a few errors in the defense: a lost duel , a misplaced ball, a slight dangerous foul. A scenario readable in advance … They ended up seizing their prey on this free kick from Grimaldo, taken over by a victorious header from Darwin Núñez, who preceded the exit of Onana (0-1, 77th) . The Dutch had no choice and rushed to attack, taking considerable risks. Again, it was a failure, the Portuguese defense taking the best as for 90 minutes. Because it is to her that Benfica owes its first qualification in the quarter-finals of the Champions League since the 2015/2016 season.