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Ajax in control with Steaua scalp

AFC Ajax 2-0 FC Steaua Bucureşti
Goals in either half from Toby Alderweireld and Ricardo van Rhijn earned the home team a commanding first-leg advantage at the Amsterdam ArenA.

Toby Alderweireld heads Ajax in front
Toby Alderweireld heads Ajax in front ©AFP/Getty Images

AFC Ajax produced a polished performance to see off FC Steaua Bucureşti 2-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 encounter at the venue for this year's final. 

With four defeats in their last five European home games, Ajax knew the importance of a positive start. Defender Toby Alderweireld provided it 28 minutes in, before Ricardo van Rhijn made it two with a composed finish shortly after the restart. Steaua's task ahead of the return fixture in Bucharest next week became a mountainous one when Mihai Doru Pintilii was sent off.

Ajax began with optimism and intent, with on loan FC Barcelona playmaker Isaac Cuenca centimetres away from turning in Viktor Fischer's teasing centre. Iceland forward Kolbeinn Sigthórsson was next to threaten, dancing round his marker and stinging the palms of visiting goalkeeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu.

With the Amsterdam outfit renowned for their intricate approach play, it came as something of a surprise when the home side ended Steaua's resolve with a well-worked set-piece routine. Captain Siem de Jong was the architect, curling over a delicious delivery for Alderweireld to head in. 

It took Ajax three minutes after the break to double their lead. This time the goal bore all the hallmarks of Frank de Boer's probing, passing philosophy as Van Rhijn concluded a beautifully crafted move with a sweeping finish.

Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, a half-time substitute for the injured Kenneth Vermeer, had to be at his best to deny Raul Rusescu and Adrian Popa from close range, but that was as good as it got for Steaua, who lost Doru Pintilii to a second yellow card late on.