UEFA Champions League

De Ligt for Ajax, relief for Barça

Ajax celebrate Matthijs de Ligt's winning goal against Juventus
© imago
  • Ajax stun Juventus to book first semi-final place since 1997
  • Barcelona beat United to end three-season run of quarter-final exits
  • Manchester City-Tottenham (agg: 0-1); Porto-Liverpool (agg: 0-2) to complete line-up

Ajax booked their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 1996/1997 season after a 2-1 victory against Juventus in Turin to complete a 3-2 win on aggregate against the Italian giants.

Nineteen-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt scored the winning goal with a thunderous header from a corner kick in the second half to seal the historic result for the Amsterdam outfit.

Juventus had opened the scoring when Cristiano Ronaldo headed in Miralem Pjanic's corner kick in the 28th minute. That goal continued the Portuguese star's impressive run of goals in seven consecutive Champions League quarter-final appearances.

However, Ajax needed just six minutes to equalise. Donny van de Beek slotted in a well-placed shot past Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny after Hakim Ziyech's shot from outside the box deflected into his path.

De Ligt completed the comeback in the 67th minute when he leapt above Juve defenders Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani and met Lasse Schone's corner with a powerful header that evaded the reach of Szczesny, sending the travelling Ajax fans into a frenzy.

Ajax held on to complete the comeback and ensure they will contest a Champions League semi-final for the first time in 22 years. The winner of Manchester City-Tottenham Hotspur (aggregate: 0-1) awaits.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's first goal
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Barça cruise past United

Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-0 at the Camp Nou to win their quarter-final comfortably 4-0 on aggregate and return to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in four years.

After Marcus Rashford hit the bar in the opening minute, Barça settled into the game and eventually opened the scoring in the 16th minute through Lionel Messi.

Desperate to steer clear of the danger presented by a pressing Barça, Ashley Young looked to boot the ball out of United’s defensive third. But Ivan Rakitic blocked Young’s attempted clearance and Messi ran onto the ball with purpose, slicing inside through the visitors’ backline and beating David De Gea with a searing effort from outside the box that settled into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Four minutes later Philippe Coutinho’s determined charge through United’s midfield was nearly thwarted by Fred, but Messi appeared again to tidy things up, continuing the attack and taking aim from nearly the same position as his first goal. De Gea was well positioned to make the stop but the ball squirted through his hands, then underneath him and into the net.

Coutinho squashed the Premier League side’s hopes of turning the tie around with a sublime finish from 25 yards in the 61st minute that brought fans at the Camp Nou to their feet. Messi picked out Jordi Alba with a cross-field ball down the left side, and Alba paved the way for Coutinho to burst forward and take aim. The Brazilian’s curler settled inches over the outstretched fingertips of De Gea.

Barcelona ended a run of three consecutive quarter-final exits and will face the winner of Porto-Liverpool (aggregate: 0-2).

Did you know?

  • Ajax scored their 155th goal in all competitions this season, equalling their club record for most goals in a single season set in 2009/10
  • At 19 years and 247 days, Matthijs de Ligt became the second youngest defender to score in a Champions League knockout match, after Joel Matip (19 years and 240 days) who scored for Schalke against Inter in the quarter-finals on 5 April 2011
  • Barcelona became the first club to score three goals against Manchester United since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho following United's 3-1 loss at Liverpool
  • Manchester United lost on aggregate by four or more goals in a two-legged European knockout tie for the first time in their history

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