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Draw with Molde not enough for Ajax

Ajax 1-1 Molde
Ajax's European participation is over for another season after they were pegged back by a Molde side who topped Group A ahead of Fenerbahçe.

Highlights: Ajax 1-1 Molde
  • Needing a win to stand any chance of progressing, Ajax draw with Molde
  • Donny van de Beek scores on his full UEFA Europa League debut
  • Harmeet Singh equalises for Molde with a deflected shot
  • Ajax hit the crossbar twice and have Nemanja Gudelj sent off late on
  • The draw for the round of 32 takes place on Monday at 13.00CET

Molde rubber-stamped first place in UEFA Europa League Group A with a draw that confirmed Ajax's elimination from the competition.

To progress, Ajax had to win and hope Fenerbahçe lost at home to Celtic. The Dutch side were given an early boost when Ricardo van Rhijn chipped a cross into the box and full European debutant Donny van de Beek planted a looping header beyond Ethan Horvath's reach.

In doing so, Van de Beek clashed heads with Molde captain Joona Toivio, who had to be substituted. Nemanja Gudelj then rattled the bar from distance as the Eredivisie club threatened to take control.

Yet Molde were soon level. Following a clever corner routine, substitute Daniel Hestad teed the ball up for Harmeet Singh inside the box and his low shot clipped Van Rhijn's heel on its way past Jasper Cillessen.

Viktor Fischer was a constant threat on the left and should have done better than blaze over early in the second half after outfoxing several blue-clad defenders. Ajax rattled the bar for a second time when one substitute, Riechedly Bazoer, set up another, Anwar El Ghazi, whose drive cannoned off the woodwork.

News of Celtic's equaliser in Istanbul reinvigorated the crowd and Ajax seemed to play with more purpose, but it was to no avail. Frank de Boer's team finished with ten men, Gudelj seeing red with a minute remaining for second bookable offence.

Training-ground reward
Molde's goal came from a clearly well-rehearsed corner. All of their players inside the area bunched together at the back post, then sprinted towards the near post in unison as Etzaz Hussain was about to deliver. His low centre was not a particularly good one, but the tactic disoriented the Ajax defence and when the ball broke to Singh he had plenty of space to find the target.

The fountain of youth
Tonight heralded the full European debut of yet another Ajax teenager – 18-year-old Van de Beek. Six of Ajax's starting XI came through the club's youth system, including captain Davy Klaassen. Denmark winger Viktor Fischer also signed when he was just 16 and played in the under-age sides before making the step up to the first team.

©Getty Images
©Getty Images
©AFP/Getty Images
©Getty Images
©AFP/Getty Images