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Ajax win at Milan to cement third spot

AC Milan 0-2 AFC Ajax
Two fine finishes from outside the box helped Ajax earn the win they needed to secure third spot and UEFA Europa League football.

Ajax win at Milan to cement third spot
Ajax win at Milan to cement third spot ©UEFA.com

Second-half goals by Demy de Zeeuw and Toby Alderweireld ensured AFC Ajax bowed out of the UEFA Champions League in style with a win that booked their place in the UEFA Europa League.

Ajax were worthy winners against a team already through to the knockout stages, putting on a fine attacking display that will have pleased caretaker coach Frank de Boer. The goals were particularly easy on the eye, Alderweireld's 66th-minute thunderbolt, coming nine minutes after De Zeeuw's opener, the pick of them.

Beforehand De Boer had vowed to help Ajax "rediscover the joy of playing" and their early forays forward suggested the visitors were relishing this trip. Miralem Sulejmani played Luis Suárez in with a perfect through ball in the second minute, the Uruguayan international driving goalwards from ten metres to force a fine save from Marco Amelia.

The goalkeeper had to be equal to Sulejmani's effort soon afterwards as the hosts were pinned back in their half, while Mario Yepes and Daniele Bonera made vital blocks on Sulejmani and Christian Eriksen.

The impressive Eriksen came even closer midway through the half, working space for a curling shot from the edge of the box which Amelia acrobatically tipped over the bar. Milan were largely subdued, with just Ronaldinho's 37th-minute header, straight at Maarten Stekelenburg, to show for their first-half efforts. Ajax did have Alderweireld to thank shortly before the interval, however, when he cleared Robinho's low centre following a clever pass with the outside of his boot from Andrea Pirlo.

However, Ajax were on top and their pressure eventually told when Suárez picked out De Jong in the area, and after his shot was blocked, De Zeeuw fired in low from 18 metres. Though Thiago Silva came close with a header, Ajax deservedly doubled their lead in spectacular fashion when Alderweireld rifled in an unstoppable shot from 25 metres. Again Suárez was the instigator, cutting inside two defenders before rolling the ball back for the centre-back to find the top corner.

Substitute Zlatan Ibrahimović could have pulled a goal back two minutes later, tricking his way past Alderweireld before forcing Stekelenburg into a block with his legs, and the former Ajax striker fired a bicycle kick over in the last minute. But the night belonged to the visitors.

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