Ajax and AC Milan shared the spoils in their Group G fixture at the Amsterdam Arena tonight with a 1-1 draw satisfying the visitors more than the home side.
Mounir El Hamdaoui gave Ajax the lead in the 24th minute before former Ajax hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic levelled for the Rossoneri in the 37th. Milan frustrated the home team, who were more vibrant from start to finish but failed to find a way through, forcing them to settle for their first point in the UEFA Champions League this season.
"The team played well, we had chances to win and didn't take them. But it's a positive to emerge unbeaten from Amsterdam," said Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri. "I think we could've made more of cross-field passes and players pushing up from behind. Our best chances came from simple moves that allowed us to go clear on goal."
Ajax stormed out of the blocks and pegged Milan back with the lively Luis Suarez tormenting Luca Antonini down the right wing. Even when there was not a chance to shoot, he managed to find one with a dipping and curling volley from 25 yards out wide to the right which had Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati tracking back with a sense of urgency, although the ball still cleared the crossbar by several feet.
Ajax's relentless pressure was punctuated by a shot from Robinho which Maarten Stekelenburg almost fumbled into the path of Ibrahimovic in the 15th minute. The home side took a deserved lead in the 24th minute with Suarez flicking the ball through the legs of Alessandro Nesta before pulling it back from the byline to El Hamdaoui. The Moroccan turned full circle inside the six-yard box before blasting a shot into the roof of the net.
Milan should have levelled on the half-hour mark when Robinho beat the offside trap to bear down on Stekelenburg. The Brazil striker looked composed, but the impression was deceptive as he placed his shot almost negligently wide of the post after Stekelenburg had already gone to ground.
Ajax's next chance fell to their goalscorer, but his shot was saved easily at his near post by Abbiati. The hosts were then caught out on a counter-attack once again and this time they were not let off the hook. Clarence Seedorf squared the ball to Ibrahimovic, who only just managed to remain onside as he chested it down before volleying with venom past Stekelenburg to silence the fans who once celebrated him.
The hosts showed the same intensity in the second half with Suarez continuing to cause problems inside the Milan penalty area. Nesta made amends for his earlier error by stealing the ball ahead of El Hamdaoui before he could shoot in the 57th minute while his central defensive partner Thiago Silva was also earning his money as Ajax continued to probe.
Yet just like in the first half when only Ajax seemed capable of scoring, it was Milan who came closest to doing so in the 84th minute. Ibrahimovic stole the ball inside the penalty area and stroked it across the face of goal to Kevin-Prince Boateng, who aimed for the opposite corner from a tight angle, but Stekelenburg made a stunning one-handed save to deny him.