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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Benfica advances in the Champions League after surprising victory over Ajax

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Striker Darwin Núñez scored in the 77th minute to shock Benfica 1-0 at Ajax in Amsterdam and reach the Champions League quarterfinals.
The Uruguayan forward outplayed the Ajax defense, finished off a free kick and scored the only goal of the game at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, giving Benfica a 3-2 aggregate lead in both games.

Benfica’s veteran defensive duo of Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi appeared superbly, and Ajax failed to translate control into goals.

Ajax had won all of their group stage matches and, following a 2-2 first-leg draw in Lisbon last month, were expected to reach the quarter-finals with home advantage.

But hopes of advancing further in the Champions League are dashed against Benfica, who are having a frustrating domestic season and are 12 points off the Portuguese league leader.

Ajax put Benfica under pressure in the first half and sent many crosses into the penalty area, but only fired a few towards goal.

Young Ryan Grafenberg created a dangerous chance after penetrating the ball, but hit the crossbar in the 36th minute in the best chance to open the scoring in the first half.

Ajax continued to press in the second half, with Brazilian winger Anthony having two chances, but the first time he headed it wide of the goal, and in the second he was the subject of a great synchronized intervention from defender Vertonghen.

Benfica’s goal attempt came after Ajax defender Edson Alvarez made a mistake following a poor tackle.

Nunez towered over Yoren Timber and took advantage of goalkeeper Andre Onana’s attempt to clear the ball and head in front of him to stun the home crowd.

Ajax came close to equalizing in stoppage time, but Benfica goalkeeper Odyssias Vlacodemos saved a dangerous attempt by Brian Probe, although the referee then awarded the Ajax substitute an offside.

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