Aston Villa survive Ajax test with goalless draw in Conference League last 16

By Sports Desk March 07, 2024 217

Aston Villa survived a testing assignment at Ajax as they drew 0-0 in the first leg of the Europa Conference League last-16 in Amsterdam.

Villa were second best throughout the night at the Johan Cruijff Arena but the Dutch giants, led by England international Jordan Henderson, could not make their advantage count as it ended goalless.

They were reliant on goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to produce an important save and were unable to produce their dynamic attacking football at the other end.

Both sides were reduced to 10 men in the final 10 minutes as Ezri Konsa was harshly sent off for two yellow cards, with Tristian Gooijer following for the hosts moments later.

But Unai Emery’s men will now be confident of winning in next week’s second leg at Villa Park, where they are so strong, and booking their spot in the quarter-finals.

With a crunch game in the race for the Premier League top four against Tottenham to come on Sunday, Emery made several changes to his side, with John McGinn and Leon Bailey among those dropping out.

One of the replacements, Moussa Diaby, almost made an early impact when he created space for himself only to shoot straight at Ajax goalkeeper Diant Ramaj.

Ajax are nothing like the side that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League five years ago and are labouring in fifth in the Dutch Eredivisie.

But they gave the Villa the run around in a first half where Emery’s men were pegged back and lucky to survive.

Henderson gave them a scare on the half-hour when he whipped a 25-yard free-kick over Martinez’s crossbar before the home side’s big chance six minutes later.

Jorrel Hato brought the ball out of defence and played in Brian Brobbey with a defence-splitting pass, but the Netherlands international shot into the side-netting as he closed in on goal.

Villa did not improve much after the break and brought on McGinn and Bailey to try and get control of the game.

But they were reliant on Martinez to keep them level in the 68th minute as the World Cup winner produced a smart stop to keep out Kenneth Taylor’s effort from Borna Sosa’s cut back.

Villa’s task looked like getting harder after Konsa had to walk for a second yellow card when it looked like he was being fouled.

But Gooijer picked up his second booking moments later and Villa were able to see the game out unscathed.

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Last modified on Thursday, 07 March 2024 15:19
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