Hakim Ziyech

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UEFA Champions League wrap: Ajax draws, Club Brugge wins

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The UEFA Champions League began its third qualifying round on Tuesday, with five sides taking advantage of the opportunity at hand.

[ MORE: Spurs agree Dybala fee ]


Club Brugge 1-0 Dynamo Kiev

Hans Vanaken’s 37th minute penalty was the difference as the Belgians will take an advantage to Ukraine.

New signing Simon Mignolet pitched the shutout after relegating American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath to the bench.

PAOK 2-2 Ajax

There were some North London Derby participants on show, as Chuba Akpom scored PAOK to make it 1-1 and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bagged a 57th minute equalizer for Ajax after the Greek side went ahead.

Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring for Ajax, while Leo Matos scored PAOK’s other goal.

American prospect Sergino Dest was again an unused sub for the Dutch side.

Ziyech has been linked with a move to either Leicester City or Bayern Munich, and it’s easy to see why.

Elsewhere
APOEL Nicosia 1-2 Qarabag
Dinamo Zagreb 1-1 Ferencvaros
Red Star Belgrade 1-1 Copenhagen

Wednesday
Krasnodar v. Porto – 1 p.m. ET
Istanbul Basaksehir v. Olympiacos – 1:45 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Celtic – 2 p.m. ET
Basel v. LASK – 2 p.m. ET
Maribor v. Rosenborg – 2:15 p.m. ET

Ajax exec Overmars makes Ziyech sales pitch to Arsenal

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Ajax technical director Marc Overmars has made a public pitch to Arsenal for winger Hakim Ziyech, who he believes would be high enough class to directly replace Mesut Ozil at a fraction of the cost.

The 46-year-old Dutchman, a former Gunner during his playing days when he spent three seasons at Highbury, made a bold and direct statement, calling out his old club to make a change in the attack that he believes will benefit them greatly. In fact, he insinuated that the two sides already spoke, but he was rebuffed, a surprising result to the Dutchman.

“I am a bit surprised that it is still so quiet around Hakim,” Overmars told Dutch publication Voetbal International. “I think he has played better every year and his statistics are exceptionally good. Many clubs are increasingly looking at that.”

It’s no surprise the technical director of a selling club is playing up one of his players, but it was only just beginning for Overmars, who specifically said Arsenal should rethink its strategy. “I think Hakim Ziyech is better than Mesut Ozil. I would say sell him and you will get Hakim for half [the price]. But they [Arsenal] didn’t listen to me. So it could just be that he stays with Ajax.”

It’s certainly quite a shock to see such a brazen public statement from an executive when most involved in transfer dealings are all too happy to keep the inside information out of view.

Ozil, who turns 31 in October, is a polarizing figure at Arsenal, where he has produced a host of brilliant and glittering moments but also gone missing for extended periods of a long season. He has failed to truly push Arsenal towards a genuine title challenge since arriving from Real Madrid in 2013, having secured just three FA Cup titles in his time at the Emirates, a relatively disappointing haul at a club that prides itself as one of the biggest in the English game.

The 26-year-old Ziyech is one of the stars of Ajax’s surprising Champions League run this season, helping the club reach the seemifinals and serving as an experienced presence in a squad bursting with young talent. He scored five goals and assisted four more in 17 Champions League matches and added another fantastic Eredivise haul to his wonderful season, scoring 16 league goals and assisting 17 more in 29 top-flight matches. Ziyech has 12 goals in 23 international matches for Morocco and started all four of their matches in this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, failing to find the back of the net before the country was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Benin.

In the interview, Overmars also lauded David Neres for rejecting a move to China last winter, pointing out how well it worked out for both the club and player, with Ajax reaching far into the Champions League and Neres earning an international call-up.

No Champions League could lead Lacazette from Arsenal

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Alexandre Lacazette could leave Arsenal if the Gunners fail to win a place in the UEFA Champions League.

So says a report out of The London Evening Standard, which notes that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid would be interested in bringing the Frenchman to La Liga.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

Arsenal will participate in next season’s Europa League unless it beats Chelsea in this season UEL Final on May 29 in Baku.

Lacazette, 27, has 19 goals and 13 assists for Arsenal this season and struck up a tremendous partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has not played in the Champions League since 2016-17.

Arsenal is being linked with a big attacking target, too, and is said to be intrigued with Ajax boss Marc Overmars comments that Hakim Ziyech will be allowed to leave if his $28 million release clause is met. From The Evening Standard:

“He is in focus because of his achievements in the Champions League. Many big clubs are buzzing around him, We promised Hakim that we would agree if there is a good transfer,” Overmars told the Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper.
Ziyech has played his entire career in the Dutch Eredivisie between Heerenveen, Twente, and Ajax. He has 12 goals in 23 caps for Morocco and scored five times for Ajax in the Champions League to go with 16 league goals.

AT THE HALF: Ajax up 3-0 on Spurs, 45 mins. from UCL final (video)

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The incredible story that is Ajax’s 2018-19 UEFA Champions League run is showing no sign of letting up, at least not through the first 45 minutes of their semifinal second leg against Tottenham Hotspur.

[ MORE: Where does Liverpool’s amazing UCL comeback rank all-time? ]

In fact, the Dutch side’s lead has only ballooned — from 1-0, to 3-0 — from minutes 91 to 135.

Thus far, the second leg has looked quite similar to the first leg: Ajax in complete control and playing some of the smoothest attacking soccer anyone has seen in quite some time. A comeback the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in 24 hours is the only thing that can save Tottenham now.

Matthijs de Ligt made it 2-0 on aggregate after just five minutes, followed by a second — in mouth-watering fashion — from Hakim Ziyech.

Ajax takes 1st leg lead at Spurs

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  • Just 3 combined shots on target
  • Van de Beek nets lone marker
  • Spurs with 51 percent possession

Spurs couldn’t find the goal in a 1-0 loss to Ajax in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday.

Donny van de Beek scored a 15th minute goal to give Ajax its win, with the second leg set for May 8 at Amsterdam Arena.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Van de Beek’s goal was a pretty bit of play, aided by Danny Rose‘s jump out of position.

The 22-year-old, who also scored against Juventus in the second leg of the quarterfinals, zipped through the box to meet a terrific pass from Hakim Ziyech.

Van de Beek faked a right-footed shot before using his actual effort to beat Hugo Lloris for 1-0.

Spurs were seemingly set to suffer a heavy loss when Jan Vertonghen was bloodied and dazed, but he was allowed to return to the match.

There were moments for Spurs, with Dele Alli perhaps the liveliest of the attackers.

The second best chance of the game was also Ajax’s, as David Neres chipped a shot off the far post which would’ve put Tottenham in a world of hurt.

A late set piece for Spurs saw Toby Alderweireld‘s header of a Christian Eriksen free kick pop over the bar.