A superb goal from AFC Ajax wing-back Maxwell 36 minutes into the first-leg with AJ Auxerre was all that separated the teams at the Amsterdam ArenA last week, and the single-goal margin has continued a trend between the clubs. Matches between AFC Ajax and AJ Auxerre tend to be close affairs, with their association going back to the quarter-finals of the 1992/93 UEFA Cup.
Daniel Dutuel scored twice as Auxerre won 4-2 at home, a success which proved enough for them to advance as a Frank de Boer reply was all Ajax could muster in the return. Guy Roux's team found BV Borussia Dortmund a step too far in their semi-final, however.
The clubs were also drawn together again in Group A of the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League, both managing away wins. Jari Litmanen scored the winning goal after just four minutes in France, while Bernard Diomède and Steve Marlet struck either side of a Tijjani Babangida goal in the Netherlands.
Auxerre won the group but found old foes Dortmund, the eventual winners, waiting in the last eight. Runners-up Ajax enjoyed success against Club Atlético de Madrid - winning 4-3 on aggregate after extra time - before falling to beaten finalists Juventus FC in the semi-finals.
The defeats by Auxerre are two of only three suffered by Ajax against French clubs in 13 matches, the other coming in the return leg of the 1987/88 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup semi-final against Olympique de Marseille. A 3-0 first-leg success had already cleared a path to the final for Ajax, who have otherwise recorded eight wins and a draw against Gallic opponents.
The last time Ajax came up against a French club, Olympique Lyonnais in the group stage of the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League, they beat them home and away. Steven Pienaar and Rafael van der Vaart scored in a 2-1 victory at the ArenA, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was twice on target in Lyon. Ajax advanced by virtue of that superior head-to-head record.
It was also a Dutch club who ended Auxerre's interest in the UEFA Cup last season. Teemo Taino's opener in the fourth round first-leg tie was cancelled out by Theo Lucius of PSV Eindhoven, who subsequently strolled to a 3-0 success in the Netherlands. That losing sequence was extended in this season's group stage, as AZ Alkmaar won 2-0.
Even if recent spoils have gone to Eredivise representatives against Auxerre, the balance overall is almost level with five wins to Auxerre and six to their Dutch opposition. The goal difference is also almost level, 14 goals scored and 15 conceded, so a tight contest is again in prospect.
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