Ajax held on for a goalless draw at Cypriot club APOEL in the first leg of their Champions League play-off on Tuesday after going down to 10 men.
Last season’s Champions League semi-finalists named a strong starting XI that included several stars of their eye-catching 2018-19 campaign, such as David Neres, Hakim Ziyech and Donny van de Beek.
But they produced a lacklustre and ill-disciplined performance, earning seven yellow cards and one red for Noussair Mazraoui.
The Dutch side looked the better of the two teams in the first half, but their display was lacking the decisive touch in front of goal.
After the break, APOEL began to offer more of a threat themselves and went agonisingly close in the 58th minute, when Giorgos Merkis’ header hit the crossbar.
Andre Onana was then forced to make a stunning save 11 minutes later, getting down to palm away a Lucas Souza effort that was destined for the bottom-right corner.
Things got even more testing for Ajax towards the end when Mazraoui was shown a second yellow card for a needlessly clumsy tackle from behind, but they held on nonetheless.
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) August 20, 2019
Ajax host APOEL in Amsterdam for the second leg next Wednesday.
In the day’s other play-off clashes, Slavia Prague and Club Brugge claimed 1-0 away wins at Cluj and LASK, respectively.