AFC Ajax are on the verge of the UEFA Champions League knockout stages after maintaining their three-point cushion over Olympique Lyonnais with a goalless draw in France.
The hosts struggled to find their attacking verve and when they finally got going, goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer was inspired, twice saving from Michel Bastos and denying Alexandre Lacazette with a sensational, fingertip save. The stalemate – a repeat of the scoreline in Amsterdam – leaves the Eredivisie champions second in Group D with a vastly superior goal difference over Lyon, who travel to GNK Dinamo Zagreb on 7 December, when Ajax host section winners Real Madrid CF.
Knowing anything other than a victory would virtually eliminate his team, Lyon coach Rémi Garde opted for an attacking formation with Yoann Gourcuff occupying one of the two central midfield berths alongside Kim Källström. The home side missed the steel of the injured Maxime Gonalons, however, as Frank de Boer's men enjoyed a strong start. Jan Vertonghen nodded Theo Janssen's corner over at the near post inside five minutes, before the Dutch midfielder rifled a low shot just wide.
Les Gones have reached the round of 16 in each of the last eight seasons yet they appeared disjointed: Lisandro's fierce shot, beaten away on seven minutes, was the only occasion in the first half that Vermeer was troubled. That was partly down to Vertonghen's bravery, the captain brilliantly blocking Bafétimbi Gomis' powerful shot before the half-hour, but also Lyon's inaccurate finishing, highlighted by Jimmy Briand's 33rd-minute effort.
For their part, Ajax looked solid and they almost opened the scoring six minutes into the second period, Christian Eriksen leading a rapid counterattack and feeding Miralem Sulejmani, who failed to win his duel with Lloris. The France No1 was called in to action again from the corner that followed, palming out Vertonghen's drive after a weak header out from Aly Cissokho.
Cissokho rode his luck again on the hour, deflecting another Janssen attempt fractionally over the crossbar. Lyon belatedly stirred in the final 20 minutes, Bastos cutting in and forcing Vermeer to make a sharp stop. The goalkeeper sprung to his right to keep out another forceful, curling effort from the Brazilian on 81 minutes, yet saved his best stop for last, pushing Lacazette's rising effort over in the dying seconds to ensure Ajax remain on course to progress for the first time in six years.