Cillessen ensures Ajax overcome Legia onslaught
Thursday, 19 February 2015
AFC Ajax 1-0 Legia Warszawa
A first-half strike from Poland striker Arkadiusz Milik and a fine display by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen ensured a slender advantage for the Dutch hosts.
Article top media content
• Poland forward Arkadiusz Milik scores first-half opener against Legia
• 20-year-old striker registers second goal in Europe this term
• Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen makes eight saves to secure victory
• Legia suffer second successive away defeat in Europe
• The second leg is next Thursday in Poland, with the last 16 draw the following day
Arkadiusz Milik scored the crucial goal but goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was the hero as AFC Ajax survived a second-half onslaught from Legia Warszawa to record a first-leg victory in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie.
Despite that late pressure, it was the hosts who began the strongest, and they will travel to Poland with a narrow lead after Milik made the difference in Amsterdam. The Poland striker found the net against his compatriots with a wonderful effort ten minutes before the interval.
Ajax conjured the first decent chance as well, Anwar El Ghazi testing Legia goalkeeper Dušan Kuciak with a strong left-footed effort before Riechedly Bazoer fired wide. Frank de Boer's men continued to dominate the early exchanges, without finding a way through a well-drilled Legia rearguard.
The visitors were nonetheless able to show glimpses of their potential, with Cillessen blocking Michał Kucharczyk's 16th-minute effort and Michał Żyro failing to trouble the Dutch international with a tame long-range effort. Four minutes later, the Eredivisie outfit took the lead. Milik, on loan from Bayer 04 Leverkusen, curled a fine effort into the far corner after finding space outside the area.
Legia were not daunted, however, and came close to an equaliser after the restart as the complexion of the game changed. A fine double save from Cillessen denied Orlando Sá and Guilherme, before Żyro missed a glorious opportunity, blasting over with the goal wide open. Thulani Serero then pulled off an important block and the impressive Cillessen saved twice from Sá, ensuring Ajax will have a lead to protect next Thursday.