Juventus took a significant stride towards the UEFA Europa League round of 16 as headed goals either side of half-time from Amauri earned a comeback win at AFC Ajax.
The visitors scored only once in their three UEFA Champions League away games before Christmas and made the worst possible start as Miralem Sulejmani raced clear to shoot Ajax ahead early on. Led by the inspirational Alessandro Del Piero, Juve levelled before the interval thanks to Amauri's unstoppable header. The Brazilian striker then turned the tie on its head with a second just before the hour, although Juve's night ended on a sour note when Hasan Salihamidžić was sent off in added time for a high challenge.
Both teams had defeats in their most recent European fixtures to exorcise and the game began at a lively pace, Luis Suárez and Siem de Jong both missing the target when well-placed. Del Piero and Diego were at the heart of the visitors' best early work, but the former inadvertently had a hand in the opening goal on 17 minutes. Ajax cleared his free-kick and broke swiftly, Suárez slipping a pass to Sulejmani, who outstripped Jonathan Zebina before shooting under Gianluigi Buffon from a tight angle.
Belying recent struggles, the visitors responded quickly and Del Piero's characteristically clever reverse pass gave Diego their first glimpse of goal, Maarten Stekelenburg turning the shot aside. The goalkeeper had no chance just past the half-hour, however. Another piece of Del Piero trickery unlocked the Ajax defence as his back-heel set up Paolo De Ceglie to deliver a pinpoint cross for Amauri to apply a thumping header.
Toby Alderweireld and Urby Emanuelson went close to restoring the Ajax advantage, but instead it was Juventus who gained the initiative before the hour with a near-replica of their first goal, Del Piero crossing for Amauri to conjure another towering header. A further blow swiftly followed for Ajax as Suárez collected a caution that rules him out of next week's decider and, although Suárez stung Buffon's palms and the impressive De Jong struck the post, Juve held firm.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.