March 27, 2023


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Haller scores at both end as Ajax battle to draw against Benfica

2 min read

Ajax twice went ahead but were held to a 2-2 draw by Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Erik ten Hag’s team rifled in 20 goals in the group stages and picked up where they left off at the Estadio da Luz as Dusan Tadic struck first, before Sebastian Haller’s own goal levelled things up.

Haller made amends by restoring Ajax’s lead just four minutes later, becoming just the fifth player to score in seven straight games in the competition, yet Roman Yaremchuk equalised with 18 minutes remaining.

A hot-tempered finale did not produce a winner, with the draw leaving it all to play for in the return leg on March 15 at the Johan Cruijff ArenA.

Tadic showed composure to nudge his side ahead after 18 minutes with an expert right-footed finish into the top-right corner following Noussair Mazraoui’s bouncing cross.

Benfica responded quickly when Jan Vertonghen’s fizzing delivery cannoned off Haller into his own net, but the Ajax man atoned for his mistake shortly after.

The striker poked in a rebound from his own shot after smart work by Steven Berghuis, although Haller then turned wide with the goal gaping after Edson Alvarez had hit the post at the end of a frenetic first half.

A deflected Everton strike squirmed just past the upright after the interval, while Rafa’s low drive evaded Darwin Nunez, who would have had a tap-in had his despairing dive made contact.

Substitute Yaremchuk restored parity, though, as he bundled a header in following Remko Pasveer’s unconvincing save from Goncalo Ramos’ vicious long-range strike.

Antony was then perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for an apparent headbutt on Nunez, punished only with a booking that keeps him involved in a tie that hangs in the balance heading into the second leg.

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