Unstoppable at home, indifferent away – Ajax's precocious young team have put Schalke and Lyon to the sword en route to Stockholm but late drama is almost a given.
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Story of the season
Unstoppable at home, indifferent away. Peter Bosz's precocious side have won seven out of seven at the Amsterdam ArenA, their attacking vigour leaving the likes of Schalke (2-0, it could have been five) and Lyon (4-1) on their knees. The fact both those teams almost overturned their deficits says it all about Ajax's away form, though. How they will fare on neutral territory (even if they are the nominal 'home' side) remains to be seen.
Record this season: P14 W8 D3 L3 F24 A15
There have been a few in a knockout campaign that has frayed Ajax fans' nerves but extra time of their quarter-final second leg stands out. With the visitors down to ten men, the writing seemed on the wall for Ajax when Schalke edged in front for the first time in the tie. However, with nine minutes left Nick Viergever launched himself at a loose ball in the box; a home defender got there first but his clearance cannoned off the Ajax man and into the net.
Davy Klaassen, captain and elder statesman at the grand old age of 24. The blueprint for all the youngsters and academy products, Klaassen is an all-action midfielder with a healthy habit for scoring important goals – he has 21 to his name this season. The Dutch international is heavily linked with a summer move to England or Italy.
Who's in charge?
Bosz, 53, was a defensive midfielder – "a destroyer" in his own words – yet his coaching style is all about creativity. His approach is simple: an attacking game with a high press and emphasis on enjoyment. The fact he's a Feyenoord man, a member of their 1992/93 Eredivisie-winning team, is overlooked thanks to the brand of football he has orchestrated since returning to the Netherlands from Maccabi Tel-Aviv 12 months ago.
Why this is Ajax's year
Fortune favours the brave. Much like Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, Ajax play without fear, like they are playing for fun in the local park. If Monaco's callowness has been feted this term, Ajax are even younger and that youthful abandon means they fear no one and nothing. Shades of Ajax's victorious 1994/95 side, which had an average age of 23.
Why Ajax will have to wait till next year
Dennis Bergkamp, now attacking coach at Ajax, was famed for his refusal to fly and that aversion to travel is echoed by the current crop. There's no masking that, until now, Ajax simply haven't been the same team away from home.
Route to the final
|Stage||Match (click links for highlights)|
|Group Stage||Panathinaikos 1-2 Ajax||W|
|Group Stage||Ajax 1-0 Standard Liège||W|
|Group Stage||Celta 2-2 Ajax||D|
|Group Stage||Ajax 3-2 Celta||W|
|Group Stage||Ajax 2-0 Panathinaikos||W|
|Group Stage||Standard Liège 1-1 Ajax||D|
|Round of 32||Legia 0-0 Ajax||D|
|Round of 32||Ajax 1-0 Legia||W|
|Round of 16||København 2-1 Ajax||L|
|Round of 16||Ajax 2-0 København (agg: 3-2)||W|
|Quarter-finals||Ajax 2-0 Schalke||W|
|Quarter-finals||Schalke 3-2 Ajax, aet (agg: 3-4)||L|
|Semi-finals||Ajax 4-1 Lyon||W|
|Semi-finals||Lyon 3-1 Ajax (agg: 4-5)||L|