Both AFC Ajax and Valencia CF are one win from the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals following a high-quality 1-1 draw in Amsterdam. Kily González's first-half penalty was cancelled out after the break by Petri Pasanen's header in a game where the two defences were under constant pressure.
Back from injury
Ajax had gone into the game on top of Group B and coach Ronald Koeman deployed Rafael van der Vaart on the left wing after his return from injury, with fit-again American John O'Brien slotting into the defence. Valencia, unable to afford defeat following their 3-0 home defeat by AS Roma, welcomed back Pablo Aimar up front, with Kily in an attacking midfield role.
Although both these teams have impressed defensively in the tournament, it was their attacking flair that caught the eye. The home side put Valencia under early pressure, inspired by teenager Nigel de Jong, and Maxwell volleyed wide on nine minutes.
However, it was Valencia whose attacks looked the more penetrating, Kily taking full advantage of his free role, and Anthony Réveillère and Francisco Rufete combining excellently on the right flank, forcing Ajax captain Christian Chivu to keep his defence alert. Kily had a long-range effort saved by Bogdan Lobont and John Carew headed wide as Valencia forced several corners, one eventually producing a goal.
As the ball was flighted in from the Valencia left, Rufete was pulled down by Tomáš Galásek, giving the visitors a 28th-minute penalty. Kily stepped up to take it and placed the ball just past Lobont's dive. Ajax were clearly shocked to go behind, and eight minutes later Lobont was only just able to tip a Rufete cross away from Carew. However, Ajax began to play more brightly, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic forced Santiago Cañizares to save in added time as he finally got behind the home defence.
Andy van der Meyde was introduced at half-time for De Jong and Ajax continued to push forward. Immediately, Ibrahimovic had a shot at Cañizares and not long afterwards Van der Vaart's long-range shot flew only just over the bar. Valencia also continued to press in a game which continued to swing from end to end, but their lead was to be cancelled out on 57 minutes.
Pasanen heads equaliser
Again a corner was the source. Ajax's short corner from the left resulted in a cross from the impressive Maxwell, and Pasanen headed the ball in. Valencia nearly had the lead back when Rubén Baraja's 25-metre shot was pushed over by Lobont, then at the other end Van der Vaart put the ball wide after a move involving superb dummies from Ibrahimovic and Maxwell.
Both sides denied
As the clock ticked down, Cañizares dived to save a curling Chivu free-kick and Kily had a late effort blocked by Lobont, but neither side could force the issue to set up a thrilling Matchday 12, when Valencia welcome Arsenal FC and Ajax visit Roma.