Bayern and Ajax thrill with 3-3 draw; Bayern tops Group E

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              Bayern's Robert Lewandowski (9) scores during the Champions League group E soccer match between Ajax and FC Bayern Munich at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
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AMSTERDAM (AP) — Nicolas Tagliafico scored a stoppage-time equalizer as Ajax salvaged a thrilling 3-3 draw against Bayern Munich that saw the German side top Champions League Group E.

In a game that featured four goals after the 82nd minute, two red cards and two penalties, substitute Kingsley Coman looked to have grabbed a winner for Bayern in the 90th before defender Tagliafico tapped in the equalizer five minutes into stoppage time. Robert Lewandowski scored twice for Bayern, including an equalizer for 2-2 in the 87th.

“It was a great match, I want to congratulate both teams for reaching the next round,” Bayern coach Niko Kovac said.

The two teams were already assured of progressing to the round of 16 before the match at Johan Cruyff Arena and Bayern needed only a draw to ensure top spot in the group, while Ajax needed to win. With group victory at stake, the two teams put on a memorable show.

“This is why fans come to the stadium, why football is such a great sport on television,” Ajax cocach Erik ten Hag said. “My team and Bayern provided a true spectacle.”

Topping the group means Bayern will avoid other group winners, including Barcelona, Manchester City and Real Madrid in the next round. But Kovac said plenty of good teams finished second, including the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham.

Lewandowski put five-time European champion Bayern ahead in the 13th minute and leveled with an 87th-minute penalty after Tadic had scored twice to put Ajax in front. Coman calmly fired the ball past Andre Onana in the 90th, before Tagliafico’s equalizer.

“It’s a terrible waste we weren’t able to get the win,” Ten Hag said.

Lewandoski’s brace took his tally in this season’s Champions League to a competition-leading eight goals, two ahead of Lionel Messi. Tadic’s goals took him to five in the competition this season.

By the time Tadic put Ajax 2-1 in front in the 82nd minute, both teams had been reduced to 10 men after referee Clement Turpin showed Maximilian Woeber a straight red card for a foul on Leon Goretzka in the 67th minute and dismissed Thomas Mueller eight minutes later for a clumsy challenge on Tagliafico.

Both teams were unbeaten in the Champions League and had conceded only two goals going into their last match. Ajax held Bayern to a 1-1 draw when they met in October in Munich.

In the group’s other match, Benfica beat AEK Athens 1-0.

Ten Hag, a former Bayern youth team coach, left recognized strikers Kasper Dolberg and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar out of his starting lineup and played Tadic as center forward as Ajax, a four-time European champion, pressed hard for victory.

Tadic repaid Ten Hag’s faith with his two goals, while Dolberg, on as a substitute, drew a foul that earned Ajax the penalty that Tadic converted to put the home team 2-1 ahead. Huntelaar — also a late substitute — provided the cross for Tagliafico’s goal.

As Ajax pressed forward, Bayern looked happy to defend and counterattack, using the pace of Serge Gnabry, Franck Ribery and later on Coman. Gnabry squandered three chances before providing the pass that set up Lewandowski’s opener.

Ten Hag said Ajax gave away the ball too cheaply at times, allowing Bayern to break.

“We have to learn from the mistakes,” he said. “But we can also take confidence into the next round.”