Five lessons from Ajax-Dnipro

Our reporter Derek Brookman analyses FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's elimination of AFC Ajax, praising the visitors' attacking intent and the Amsterdam ArenA fans.

Yevhen Konoplyanka was key to Dnipro's victory
Yevhen Konoplyanka was key to Dnipro's victory ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk eliminated AFC Ajax on away goals to reach the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals after both sides scored in extra time at the Amsterdam ArenA. Our reporter Derek Brookman recounts five key points from the fixture.

Attack really is better than defence
Despite missing five first-teamers through injury and suspension, Dnipro certainly didn't come just to park the bus. They broke forward in numbers whenever the opportunity arose and generally kept three players up, which helped stifle Ajax's preference for building carefully from the back. It is said that 1-0 is a difficult first-leg lead to defend; the Ukrainian team demonstrated that being proactive rather than reactive pays dividends.

Konoplyanka lights up the left flank
Left-winger and captain for the night, Yevhen Konoplyanka was always a willing outlet for his defenders and also restricted Ricardo van Rhijn's attacking impulses. He shielded the ball well and found his team-mates easily. His 97th-minute goal, a delicious curling effort from the edge of the box, was just reward for an industrious night's work. He clearly doesn't shirk a challenge either; he's the most-fouled player in the UEFA Europa League this term.

Bleeding talent takes its toll
For years now Ajax have become resigned to losing many of their best players to clubs outside the Netherlands; Daley Blind and Christian Eriksen are two of the more recent examples. Reaching the later stages of a UEFA competition seems beyond them unless they can retain such top talent for longer. On Thursday they looked short of creativity and vulnerable in defence. And it's not just this season they've come up short – the last time they got to a European quarter-final was 2002/03.

Riechedly Bazoer; an unpolished gem
Bazoer, the youngest player on the pitch at 18 years and five months, brought vigour and bite to the Ajax midfield. Just when his side appeared to be running out of ideas he hauled them back into the tie with his first goal in continental competition. He arguably came closest to winning it in regular time too, only for Denys Boyko to tip his low drive round the post. And he underscored the wonderful unpredictability of youth when he hit the fifth official on the back with a corner during extra time.

They love their European nights in Amsterdam
Be it a UEFA Europa League or a UEFA Champions League evening, the Amsterdam ArenA is almost always packed to the rafters. The proceedings begin with a hearty singalong to Bloed, Zweet en Tranen (blood, sweat and tears) by local legend André Hazes. That's followed by the waving of 50,000-plus white and red flags. And the hardcore of supporters in Section 410 chant, bounce and sing virtually non-stop, regardless of what's happening on the pitch.

Top