The UEFA Champions League began its third qualifying round on Tuesday, with five sides taking advantage of the opportunity at hand.
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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.
APOEL Nicosia 1-2 Qarabag
Dinamo Zagreb 1-1 Ferencvaros
Red Star Belgrade 1-1 Copenhagen
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
Watford went toe-to-toe with Champions League semifinalists Ajax for most of the match, but capitulated late as Dutch youth international Jurrien Timber scored an 89th minute winner in a 2-1 win for the Eredivisie side in Austria.
Andre Gray put the Hornets up from the penalty spot six minutes before the break as American youth international Sergino Dest was called for an unlucky handball in the box. Abdoulaye Doucoure danced through the box and as he looked to skip the ball past Dest, it popped up and caught the American’s arm. Gray delivered and put Watford 1-0 up at the break.
The lead would only last until the 51st minute when Dusan Tadic found himself on the ball at the end line on the right, and he cut back to Donny van de Beek through the dummy of Kasper Dolberg on the penalty spot for an easy low finish and a 1-1 scoreline. It would stay that way until one minute to go in regulation as Carel Eiting sent a ball into the box where the 18-year-old Timber lept with his back to goal and clipped the ball off the top of his head for the winner, burying the chance inside the far post.
Both teams featured strong lineups, as Watford ran out stars like Gray, Tom Cleverley, Adrian Mariappa, and former Eredivisie veteran Daryl Janmaat while Nathan Chalobah, Gerard Deulofeu, and Jose Holebas came off the bench. Ajax saw van de Beek, Tadic, Dolberg, and Daley Blind all make the starting lineup.
Next for Watford is a match against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, also taking place in Austria.
For the first time since the days of John O’Brien, an American will be in Ajax’s first team.
According to reports in the Netherlands, Heerenveen outside back Kik Pierie traveled to Ajax to speak with manager Erik Ten Hag and undergo a medical ahead of a transfer this summer. Pierie was born in Boston while his father was studying at Harvard Medical School, but Pierie and his family moved back to the Netherlands after his father’s year-long stay in the U.S. came to an end.
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So far, Pierie has appeared for Netherlands youth national teams, but he has also reportedly been contacted by U.S. Soccer. Pierie still has plenty of time before he locks in with one team or the other, though a move to Ajax certainly puts him on a bigger stage for both the Netherlands National Team and clubs across Europe.
Ironically, Pierie isn’t the only Dutch-American wing back on the books at Ajax. Sergino Dest, who is a regular for U.S. youth national sides and could start for the U.S. this May at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, is a member of Jong Ajax, the Ajax reserves side, and has a professional contract. The signing of Pierie certainly adds a barrier for Dest, though since both are 18, they have time to battle and break into the first team.
Next season, Dest could perhaps go out on loan and gain some first team minutes in the Eredivisie.