AFC Ajax's hopes of a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League are hanging by a thread after they lost 2-0 at home to Manchester United FC.
The first half was a low-key affair with both sides struggling to keep hold of possession. The hosts' Siem de Jong came closest to scoring, but was denied by a fine David de Gea save. The English champions were much improved after the break, though, and deservedly secured a handsome first-leg lead thanks to goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernández.
The crowd had to wait 18 minutes for the first shot on target, with Wayne Rooney's lofted effort easily caught by Kenneth Vermeer. The Ajax keeper was soon called into action again, rushing out to smother the ball as Hernández sprinted clear. Nani miscued when bearing down on Vermeer, yet the best effort of the half came at the other end on 32 minutes, De Gea diving full-stretch to turn De Jong's drive behind.
United started the second period more purposefully. Within a minute Vermeer had to tip Nani's drive over, and from the resultant corner only a fine lunge by Jan Vertonghen denied Phil Jones. The Ajax keeper once again saved at Hernández's feet as Sir Alex Ferguson's men continued to assert themselves.
A goal looked increasingly likely and duly came just before the hour. Vertonghen only half-cleared Nani's low cross and Young drilled the loose ball through Vermeer's legs. Nani almost doubled the advantage seconds later but shot centimetres too high.
Although Christian Eriksen tested De Gea with a fine run and shot, it was the visitors who struck again with five minutes to go, Hernández exchanging passes with Rooney before slotting in. Ajax will have it all to do when the sides meet at Old Trafford next Thursday.
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