Darwin Nunez scored late as Benfica defeated Ajax 1-0 – and 3-2 on aggregate – to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in six years and end the Dutch team’s run in the European competition.
— SL Benfica (@SLBenfica) March 15, 2022
Nunez found the net with a 77th-minute header from a free kick to help Benfica make it to the last eight for the fifth time in their history. The teams had drawn 2-2 in the first leg in Portugal.
Two-time European champion Benfica, who began this year’s campaign in the third qualifying round, were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the 2016 quarter-finals.
Ajax had already equalled their most prolific Champions League campaign with 22 goals but struggled to capitalise on their chances in Amsterdam.
Striker Sebastien Haller, the first player to score in his opening seven Champions League games and the quickest to reach 11 goals in the competition’s history, had a goal disallowed for offside early in the game.
The win extended Benfica’s unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches, though the visitors came into the game off a 1-1 home draw against Vizela in the Portuguese top flight on Friday.
Eliminate Barcelona in the group stage ✅
Eliminate Ajax in the round of 16 ✅
Benfica’s Cinderella story continues ✨ pic.twitter.com/Sw1WC285OU
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 15, 2022
Ajax were one of three teams to win all six of their group-stage matches, along with Liverpool and Bayern, but have now been knocked out at the first hurdle of the knockout rounds.
The Dutch club were in the last 16 for the second time since 2006, though they reached the semi-finals the last time they got this far three seasons ago.
But Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag, who has been discussed as a potential replacement for Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United, joined the Premier League club in exiting this competition on Tuesday evening.
Courtesy: Sky Sports