Ajax 0-0 Aston Villa: Both teams deadlock at UEL
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Ajax 0-0 Aston Villa: Both teams deadlock at UEL

Ajax 2024 shirts welcomed Aston Villa to Amsterdam for the first leg of their Europa Conference League Round of 32 tie. Unai Emery’s team put in a fairly classic away performance in a two-legged tie, defending firmly. Both teams were reduced to 10 men at the end of the match, and tempers flared.

Ezri Konsa and Tristan Gooijer were sent off late on as Ajax and Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Europa Conference League Round of 32 on Thursday.

The electric atmosphere of the Johan Cruyff Arena failed to produce a thrilling match, with Brian Brobbey’s miss the only highlight of a lacklustre first half.

However, referee Enea Jorgji, who showed great card sense, managed to kick-start the match in the last ten minutes.

Konsa received a second card for dragging Chuba Akpom to the ground, then Gooijer was given his marching orders for what the referee deemed an inconsiderate headbutt three minutes later.

Both teams almost made the most of the extra space they were given afterwards – Akpom failed to head home when unmarked in the box, while Leon Bailey saw a dangerous effort saved, with Villa, on the strength of their excellent home record, certainly the favourites for the return fixture at Villa Park.

With Villa’s defence asleep, Brobbey should have given the home side the lead. Ajax black jersey just after the half-hour mark, but the striker missed the target in a one-on-one with Emiliano Martinez.

Villa’s keeper came to the visitors’ rescue after the restart, brilliantly saving a Kenneth Taylor effort.

Ajax 0-0 Aston Villa: Both teams deadlock at UEL

But Villa’s composure was shattered in the 83rd minute when Konsa saw red after being adjudged to have dragged substitute Akpom. However, parity was soon restored when referee Jorgji sent off Gooijer for a foul on Nicolo Zaniolo.

Akpom should have done better with a free header in the last minute of normal time, and Bailey could have made him pay Ajax outdoor jersey without Ahmetcan Kaplan’s excellent stoppage-time block, leaving the match very evenly poised ahead of the second leg.

The bottom line – Villa in second gear

Given Ajax’s difficulties this season, Villa could have come in with a little more confidence.

But with a huge league game against Tottenham looming on Sunday, Unai Emery opted for a more conservative approach. It paid off in the end, even if the result could have been different, given the chances Ajax squandered, and Villa can perhaps count themselves lucky.

Player of the match – Ahmetcan Kaplan (Ajax)

21-year-old defender Kaplan put in an excellent performance, blocking Bailey in injury time. He kept Ollie Watkins quiet throughout the match.

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