BERLIN: Ajax coach Erik Ten Hag said his team want to “annoy Europe’s elite” after reaching the Champions League last 16 with a 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund Wednesday, with the hosts left fuming at Mats Hummels’ controversial first-half dismissal. “We want to annoy Europe’s elite teams. We’re not saying we are favorites, but nobody wants to get Ajax in the draw,” Ten Hag told broadcaster DAZN after the Dutch side came from behind to win in Germany and secure their place in the knockout rounds.
Dortmund were furious at English referee Michael Oliver’s decision to send off Hummels after a foul on Ajax midfielder Antony, which they insisted was too harsh. “I have no idea how you can give a red card in that situation. I have no idea how a referee who is supposedly at Champions League level can make that decision,” Hummels told broadcaster DAZN. He also accused Antony of play-acting, saying the Brazilian had been “grossly unsporting”. “He’s a great footballer, but he needs to learn to be a sportsman,” said Hummels.
Antony went on to play a crucial role, setting up all three goals as Ajax turned the game around in the last 20 minutes. “We defended valiantly, but it’s hard when you only have ten men,” said Dortmund captain Marco Reus. Dortmund will be without Hummels when they travel to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon on November 24, a game which could decide which of the two will join Ajax in the last 16. While the Dutch side are sitting pretty with four wins in four, Dortmund are level on points with third-placed Sporting, who beat Besiktas 4-0 on Wednesday.
Desperate for revenge after they were thrashed 4-0 in Amsterdam, Dortmund missed two good chances to take the lead early on, Mats Hummels shaving the bar with a header before Jude Bellingham missed a sitter minutes later. Free in the box after Reus had rounded Ajax keeper Remko Pasveer, the England midfielder somehow managed to head a gentle cross wide of the empty net. The home side were bracing for another miserable night when Hummels was controversially sent off just before the half-hour mark.
The veteran defender was visibly nonplussed when VAR upheld Oliver’s decision, saying later he had assumed the decision would be overturned. Yet Dortmund showed unusual grit with ten men, and were rewarded with a VAR decision in their favor just five minutes later. After Bellingham was clipped by Noussair Mazraoui in the box, Reus buried the resulting penalty into the bottom corner to give the home side an unlikely lead. Marco Rose’s side weathered an early storm after the break, but they finally buckled with 20 minutes to go.
A dangerous inswinging cross from Antony unsettled the Dortmund defense, and Dusan Tadic prodded the ball in at the far post. The Brazilian sent an almost identical ball into the area ten minutes later, and French striker Sebastien Haller nodded into complete Ajax’s comeback. Antony completed a hat-trick of assists in injury time, setting up Davy Klaassen with a late tap-in to rub salt into Dortmund’s wounds. – AFP