AFC Ajax 2-1 AJ Auxerre
First-half goals from Demy de Zeeuw and Luis Suárez gave the home side a first Group G victory despite Valter Birsa's fine free-kick.
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First-half goals from Demy de Zeeuw and Luis Suárez gave AFC Ajax a much-needed win against AJ Auxerre as the Dutch side brought themselves back into contention in UEFA Champions League Group G.
Having taken just one point from two games, Ajax required an early confidence boost and duly received it thanks to De Zeeuw's thunderous drive. Martin Jol's men doubled their advantage shortly before the break with a typically composed Suárez finish, yet the complexion of the match changed when Valter Birsa converted a free-kick awarded after André Ooijer had been sent off for bringing down Dennis Oliech. The hosts hung on to claim three valuable points, while their visitors also ended with ten men following Oliech's late red card.
Keen to establish dominance as quickly as possible, Ajax got off to a dream start by taking the lead on seven minutes. Olivier Sorin could only parry Rasmus Lindgren's low shot and De Zeeuw beat Delvin Ndinga to the loose ball, unleashing a tremendous diagonal shot into the top corner from just outside the area. The Amsterdam outfit then went on to control possession for the next half-hour without carving out any further openings.
Just when it seemed the first half would fizzle out quietly, however, Ajax struck again with another goal of real quality after 41 minutes. A flowing move down the right that began near their own penalty area culminated in Mounir El Hamdaoui releasing Suárez behind the Auxerre defence, and the Uruguayan international calmly steered a low shot past Sorin with the outside of his right boot.
De Zeeuw almost put the tie out of the visitors' reach immediately after the restart, narrowly failing to get his head to a Suárez cross. Instead, Ajax found themselves down to ten men when Ooijer pulled down Oliech with the Kenyan bearing down on goal. Additional punishment was swift, Birsa expertly curling the resulting free-kick beyond Maarten Stekelenburg.
Unsurprisingly, Auxerre began to press for an equaliser and Eyong Enoh had to hook a header from Adama Coulibaly off the line. Ajax's lead was looking increasingly precarious, although Suárez could have put the result beyond doubt with 12 minutes left only to pass up the opportunity.
Their French rivals pushed hard, but a third consecutive defeat beckoned for the Ligue 1 side when Oliech collected a second yellow card five minutes from time, with unused substitute Jean-Pascal Mignot later sent off from the touchline. Victory put Ajax level with AC Milan on four points in the standings, five shy of Real Madrid CF.