Roma gain the upper hand in Europa League tie against Ajax
Sports Desk, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- AS Roma look like the favorite to advance to the Europa League semifinals after besting Ajax 1-2 in Thursday’s quarterfinal first leg in Amsterdam.
The only Italian club still in the hunt for European honors came from behind to prevail on a pair of set pieces in the second half.
The hosts has the ball for two-thirds of the contest and put nine shots on target to Roma’s four, but a missed penalty and a colossal mistake by a young goalkeeper proved too much to overcome.
Veteran striker Edin Dzeko missed the mark on Roma’s first chance in the 11th minute and was thwarted by defender Nicolas Tagliafico two minutes later.
Bryan Cristante tested Ajax keeper Kjell Scherpen with a bolt from distance in the 16th minute that the starter for the Netherlands U-21 team handed well.
Scherpen likewise did well in the 22nd minute on a strike from Dzeko.
Dusan Tadic came close for Ajax in the 32nd minute, seven minutes before he combined with Davy Klaassen to give the home side the lead.
The sequence began with an ill-conceived back pass by Roma midfielder Amadou Diawara that found its way onto the foot of Klaassen, who worked a give-and-go with Tadic before sliding the ball past keeper Pau Lopez.
A foolish penalty by Roger Ibañez on Tadic in the 52nd minute set the stage for Ajax to double their advantage. But Lopez guessed right and turned aside the Serb’s shot.
The save boosted Roma’s morale and the equalizer materialized in the 57th minute off a free kick just outside the area.
Scherpen, playing for the injured Maarten Steklenburg, misjudged Lorenzo Pellegrini’s shot and ended up deflecting it into his own net.
Ajax pressed desperately for a winner, but Lopez proved equal to the task, stopping Antony dos Santos twice in the space of 10 minutes.
Roma won a corner in the 87th minute and Klaassen’s attempt to clear sent the ball into the air. Ibañez chested it onto his foot and smashed it into the far corner. EFE dmu/dr