AFC Ajax made certain of a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 draw with a 2-1 Group A victory at FC Timişoara, the scoreline concealing a wealth of drama at the Dan Păltinişanu Stadium.
Martin Jol's side conceded within two minutes of kick-off, but were on level terms six minutes later through Luis Suárez. Within 60 seconds of the restart, Marko Pantelić made it 2-1 before a remarkable passage of play saw two Timişoara players – including goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon – dismissed, while the irrepressible Suárez had near-identical penalty kicks saved by different custodians. Timişoara are out, but this at least was a game they will struggle to forget.
It began so well for Ioan Ovidiu Sabău's men, who ended a four-game wait for a first home goal of the season when Gheorghe Bucur set up Dorin Goga to clip a hesitant-looking shot past Maarten Stekelenburg. Ajax responded quickly though, with Suárez bamboozling Artavazd Karamyan before darting a low shot through Pantilimon's hands with the outside of his boot. Chances abounded thereafter, but compared to the second half it was pretty mild.
Within a minute of the restart, Demy de Zeeuw's first-time ball freed Pantelić to race through and score, and Timişoara's days looked numbered when Éder Bonfim was dismissed for hauling Mitchell Donald down in the box soon after. Suárez struck the resulting penalty to Pantilimon's right, and the goalkeeper made an easy save. The custodian was then sent off on 62 minutes for flooring the Uruguayan as he raced through on goal.
When presented with a second penalty, Suárez opted to put it in almost exactly the same place, substitute goalkeeper Pedro Taborda diving to his right and saving to Jol's evident dismay. Ajax twice hit the crossbar thereafter with the footballing gods rewarding Taborda's initial pluck as Timişoara's nine men weathered a 30-minute onslaught.