Spartak edge out Ajax

The Brazilian notched the game’s only goal 12 minutes after the

interval to stun the hosts, who who had bossed proceedings in terms

of possession. Frank de Boer’s side huffed and puffed in search of

the equaliser they more than merited but were unable to find a way

past Spartak goalkeeper Andrei Dikan despite a corner count of 13

to zero. Dikan was called into his first action as early as the

first minute, saving low at his near post from Siem de Jong’s

snap-shot, while teenage winger Lorenzo Ebecilio saw an effort

blocked by Kirill Kombarov in the sixth minute and De Jong glanced

a header over the bar soon after. Another blast from the lively

Ebecilio in the 12th minute, after cutting in from the left, needed

tipping over the bar by Dikan, and the visiting stopper was then

out quickly to smother at the feet of Demy De Zeeuw following

Miralem Sulejmani’s ball over the top. De Zeeuw mustered a couple

more sights of goal for himself but could find no way past Dikan,

his first attempt kept out by the goalkeeper and he failed to make

proper contact with the second when well placed. Republic of

Ireland forward Aiden McGeady caused the first minor worry for the

Ajax defence in the 36th minute, his cross causing momentary panic

in the box before goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg cleared. Back at

the other end, Sulejmani curled a 20-yard free-kick just wide with

his left foot two minutes later and then swung in a corner from

which Dikan kept out a powerful De Jong header as Ajax continued

their fruitless pursuit of a first-half opener. The pattern of the

game remained the same for the opening 10 minutes of the second

period, De Zeeuw launching himself to connect with Ebecilio’s

floated ball into the box only to head straight at Dikan. Then, in

the 57th minute, the visitors nicked what could prove a vital away

goal against the run of play. Alex got the better of a tussle with

Daley Blind on the corner of the box before curling a left-footed

shot past Stekelenburg to stun the home crowd. De Jong had two

decent opportunities to equalise within eight minutes, but failed

to work the keeper. He first directed an effort wide from

Sulejmani’s corner – seemingly off his shoulder – and then shinned

another attempt wide. Ebecilio tried his luck from distance only to

see Dikan keep it out with a strong left arm, with De Jong just

unable to get to the rebound. Spartak were at last offering

something themselves going forward, and Stekelenburg had to be

alert to prevent Kombarov’s vicious low cross from sneaking in. But

Dikan remained the busier of the two goalkeepers. Ebecilio made

room for a left-footed shot in the 83rd minute which the Spartak

stopper did well to beat away for a corner, and he then pulled off

an even better save in stoppage time – flying to his left to tip

Christian Eriksen’s curling shot out for a corner which came to