Zlatan Ibrahimovic and PSG denied by Ajax in ‘good spectacle’
A viciously struck free-kick by Danish international Lasse Schone allowed Ajax to come from behind and draw 1-1 with Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League Group F opener on Wednesday.
The French champions had taken a 14th-minute lead at the Amsterdam Arena thanks to Edinson Cavani’s 28th goal on his 50th appearance for the club, but they were made to pay for their failure to add to their advantage.
“I think that above all it was a good spectacle,” said PSG coach Laurent Blanc.
“It’s true that we were disrupted by Ajax in the second half, by a very good Ajax team. They came looking for us and used the ball well – I think it’s the first time, certainly in the group stage, that we have had less possession than our opponents.
However, he added: “We are disappointed because we didn’t come here just to get a draw.”
PSG’s line-up included three former Ajax stars in Gregory van der Wiel, Maxwell and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the latter welcomed by a banner from the home fans which read: ‘Welcome home’.
David Luiz was passed fit to start in central defence for the away side while Blaise Matuidi was preferred to Javier Pastore in midfield.
Blanc’s side have been quarter-finalists in each of the last two seasons, and the Paris coach urged his team on the eve of this game to prove that they are capable of going all the way this time.
Ajax, meanwhile, have not made it beyond the group stage since 2005/06 and the Dutch champions came into this game on the back of a less than convincing start to their domestic campaign.
Frank de Boer’s side – who had Lucas Andersen and Icelander Kolbeinn Sigthorsson back – did well at home in the Champions League last season, beating Barcelona and Celtic and holding AC Milan.
Nevertheless, they looked set for a long evening when poor defending allowed PSG to open the scoring.
Danish international left-back Nicolai Boilesen was to blame, tamely losing possession to Lucas inside his own penalty area, allowing the Brazilian to set up Ibrahimovic. The Swede’s shot was blocked by Ricardo van Rhijn but Cavani followed up to convert the rebound.
Paris should have doubled their lead in the opening minute of the second half, but Lucas could only fire wide of the left-hand post with just the goalkeeper to beat after dispossessing Niklas Moisander.
Ajax could have crumbled in the spell that followed, but they were let off the hook by poor finishing on behalf of the visitors, with Ibrahimovic shooting wide and then having a free-kick saved by Jasper Cillessen before Lucas was denied by the keeper at the end of another breakaway.
Marquinhos then headed inches wide from a Lucas free-kick in the 67th minute, and the Brazilian defender was involved as Ajax drew level seven minutes later.
He was booked for holding back Thulani Serero just outside the area, and Schone stepped up to score from the resulting free-kick, his strike just too strong for Salvatore Sirigu, who did get a touch.
It could have been even better for Ajax, but another free-kick by Schone in the 77th minute was turned onto the post by Sirigu.
“On the basis of our second half, we deserved better than the draw,” declared Schone. “We proved our worth.”
PSG held out for a draw which leaves them with only one win from their last eight away outings, a run stretching back to the start of April, and there is now extra pressure on them before they host Barcelona – 1-0 winners at home to Apoel Nicosia on Wednesday – in two weeks’ time.