Big Match Feature: Ajax v Spurs

Ajax are well placed to reach a first Uefa Champions League final in 23 years as they welcome Tottenham holding a narrow lead from the first leg.

Donny van de Beek’s first-half goal was the difference between the sides in the first game in north London, giving Ajax a precious advantage to take back to Amsterdam.

Of the 17 sides who have lost the home first leg of a semifinal in the Uefa Champions League era, only one has recovered to win on aggregate – Ajax themselves, against Panathinaikos in 1995/96 (0-1 home, 3-0 away). That is only one of four instances when a team has gone through after losing at home in the first leg of a Uefa Champions League tie, though two of them happened this season.

Both sides have ended long waits to make it to this stage. While the most recent of Ajax’s eight European Cup semifinals came in 1997, Spurs have featured in the competition’s last four only once previously – 57 years ago, in their debut season of European competition.

Ajax have ousted holders Real Madrid and Italian champions Juventus in this season’s knockout rounds, while Spurs have made it to the semifinals by beating Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City.

Previous Meetings

The teams have met in only one previous European tie, Spurs winning 6-1 on aggregate in the 1981/82 European Cup Winners’ Cup first round.

Goals from Glenn Hoddle, Mark Falco and Ricardo Villa helped the English club to a 3-1 first-leg win in Amsterdam, the home side’s sole response coming from Søren Lerby.

Falco was again on target in the return at White Hart Lane, scoring the second goal in a 3-0 home win with Tony Galvin and Osvaldo Ardiles also on target.

Spurs went on to reach the semifinals of that season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup, eventually losing 2-1 on aggregate to Barcelona.

Form Guide


• Ajax’s record in European Cup semifinals is W6 L2:

1968/69: W 3-2 Spartak Trnava (3-0 h, 0-2 a)

1970/71: W 3-1 Atlético Madrid (0-1 a, 3-0 h)

1971/72: W 1-0 Benfica (1-0 h, 0-0 a)

1972/73: W 3-1 Real Madrid (2-1 h, 1-0 a)

1979/80: L 1-2 Nottingham Forest (0-2 a, 1-0 h)

1994/95: W 5-2 Bayern München (0-0 a, 5-2 h)

1995/96: W 3-1 Panathinaikos (0-1 h, 3-0 a)

1996/97: L 2-6 Juventus (1-2 h, 1-4 a)

One of Ajax’s two European Cup semifinal defeats came against English opponents, Nottingham Forest – then the holders – beating them in the last four in 1980 en route to retaining the trophy.

Ajax’s home record at this stage of the European Cup is therefore W6 L2; they won the first six such matches but have lost the last two.

Ajax’s last experience of English opposition before this tie came in the 2016/17 Uefa Europa League final, when they lost 2-0 to Manchester United at Sweden’s Friends Arena. Including the first leg of this tie, that is their only defeat in their last five matches against English clubs (W3 D1).

Ajax’s last home game against Premier League opposition was a 3-1 defeat of Manchester City in the 2012/13 Uefa Champions League group stage – their first win in five matches (D1 L3) – with Christian Eriksen, now of Tottenham, scoring the third goal. Ajax had won four of their first five home games with English clubs, drawing the other.

Ajax have won only one of their four fixtures at home to London sides (D1 L2) – the first, a 2-1 defeat of Arsenal in the 1971/72 European Cup quarterfinal.

Ajax claimed their first European Cup in London, beating Panathinaikos 2-0 in the 1971 final at Wembley.

Ajax’s record in two-legged ties against English clubs is W3 L4; they have lost the last four, most recently against Manchester United in the 2011/12 Uefa Europa League round of 32.

The Dutch club were without a win in seven Uefa Champions League knockout phase fixtures (D2 L5), since a 3-2 victory at Atlético Madrid in the 1996/97 quarterfinal second leg that completed a 4-3 aggregate success, before this season’s knockout rounds, when they have won at Real Madrid (4-1), Juventus (2-1) and now Tottenham.

Those victories made Ajax the third team to win all three away games in the Uefa Champions League knockout rounds, after Bayern München in 2012/13 and Real Madrid in 2017/18 – who both went on to win the trophy.

Ajax have not won any of their last seven home Uefa Champions League knockout phase matches (D4 L3), most recently beating Borussia Dortmund 1-0 in the 1995/96 quarterfinal second leg (3-0 aggregate). In this season’s competition, they have lost to Real Madrid (1-2) and drawn with Juventus (1-1). However, Ajax have won all three Uefa Champions League knockout phase ties in which they have played the second leg at home.

The Amsterdammers have lost only one of their 17 European matches in 2018/19 (W10 D6) – the round of 16 firstleg defeat at home to Madrid. They won their first five home games this season but are without a victory in three, drawing with Bayern München on matchday six (3-3) and Juventus either side of the loss to Madrid.

Ajax are the sole side still involved who came through qualifying. They are the first side in European Cup history to reach the semifinals having come through three qualifying rounds.

Ajax are the first Dutch club to have reached the Uefa Champions League semifinals since PSV in 2004/05.

Ajax have won 25 of the 27 Uefa competition ties in which they won the away first leg. One of those two defeats did come after a 1-0 away success, however, against Dinamo Zagreb in the 2007/08 Uefa Cup first round (2-3 home); of the five ties in which they won 1-0 away in the first match, that is their sole aggregate defeat.

• Ajax’s record in six Uefa penalty shoot-outs is W1 L5:

3-5 v Levski Sofia, 1975/76 Uefa Cup third round

0-3 v Juventus, 1977/78 European Champion Clubs’ Cup quarterfinal

2-4 v Bohemians Praha, 1984/85 Uefa Cup second round

4-3 v Grêmio, 1995 European/South American Cup

2-4 Juventus, 1995/96 Uefa Champions League final

2-4 v Steaua Bucuresti, 2012/13 Uefa Europa League round of 32


• Spurs were beaten in their only previous European Cup semifinal:

1961/62: L 3-4 Benfica (1-3 a, 2-1 h)

Tottenham are the seventh English club to reach the Uefa Champions League semifinals, an outright competition record that was previously shared with Spain. They are the only one of the four semifinalists yet to win the European Cup – or indeed reach the final.

Tottenham had already faced Dutch opposition this season before the first leg, taking four points from their two group games against PSV Eindhoven (2-2 away, 2-1 home) with Harry Kane scoring three of their four goals. The first leg against Ajax ended a six-match unbeaten run against Eredivisie clubs (W4 D2), and was their first defeat since a 1-0 loss at home to PSV in the 2007/08 Uefa Cup round of 16 first leg.

Spurs went on to lose that 2008 tie on penalties despite a 1-0 away win in the second leg, giving them the overall record W3 L3 in two-legged aggregate contests against Dutch teams.

The London club are unbeaten in their last four trips to the Netherlands (W2 D2), drawing the last two.

Overall, Spurs’ record away to Dutch clubs is W5 D2 L2. One of those two defeats came against Feyenoord in the 1973/74 Uefa Cup final, the Rotterdam outfit winning 2-0 in the home second leg and 4-2 on aggregate.

Tottenham’s away record in the Uefa Champions League knockout rounds is W2 D1 L2; in this season’s knockout rounds, they won 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund (4-0 aggregate) before the 4-3 loss at Manchester City (4-4 aggregate, Spurs won on away goals). This is the third tie in a row in which they have been away in the second leg.

This season, Mauricio Pochettino’s side picked up only two points on their travels in Group B, losing 2-1 at Inter before draws at PSV (2-2) and Barcelona (1-1). The latter result, on matchday six, helped them overtake Inter to snatch second place behind Barça; Spurs had only one point after three matches.

The Lilywhites have won just five of their last 20 European away matches (D7 L8).

This is Tottenham’s most successful Uefa Champions League campaign; their previous best came in 2010/11, when they reached the quarterfinals.

Tottenham have lost all three Uefa competition ties in which they were beaten in the home first leg, most recently against Benfica in the 2013/14 Uefa Europa League round of 16 (1-3 home, 2-2 away). The other two home first-leg defeats were both via a 1-0 scoreline, against PSV in the 2007/08 Uefa Cup round of 16 (1-0 away, 5-6 penalties) and Real Madrid in the 1984/85 Uefa Cup quarterfinals (0-0 away). They have therefore never lost the second leg after a first-leg home defeat.

• Tottenham’s record in three Uefa penalty shoot-outs is W1 L2:

4-3 v Anderlecht, 1983/84 Uefa Cup final

5-6 v PSV Eindhoven, 2007/08 Uefa Cup round of 16

1-4 v Basle, 2012/13 Uefa Europa League quarterfinal

Links and Trivia

Spurs boast four former Ajax players in their ranks: Toby Alderweireld (2008–13), Jan Vertonghen (2006–12), Davinson Sánchez (2016–17) and Eriksen (2009–13) with the last three all having joined direct from Ajax.

Eriksen scored 25 goals in 113 Eredivisie matches for Ajax, winning three league titles and one Dutch Cup in Amsterdam. Alderweireld shared in all four trophy triumphs having made 128 league appearances for Ajax, scoring seven goals, while Vertonghen won two championships and two domestic cups with the Dutch club, scoring 23 goals in 155 league outings.

In 2016/17, Sánchez’s sole full season in Amsterdam, Ajax finished second in the Eredivisie, the Colombian making 12 appearances in their run to the Uefa Europa League final.

Vertonghen spent 2006/07 on loan at RKC Waalwijk, scoring three goals in 12 Eredivisie appearances – including one in a 2-2 draw against Ajax on 8 April 2007.

Vertonghen and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were Ajax teammates between 2006 and 2008 while Eriksen and Alderweireld played alongside Daley Blind from 2009 to 2013.

• Have played in England:

Daley Blind (Manchester United 2014–18)

Dušan Tadic (Southampton 2014–18)

Zakaria Labyad (Fulham 2016)

• Has played in the Netherlands:

Michel Vorm (Utrecht 2005–11, Den Bosch 2005/06)

Lasse Schöne was in the NEC Nijmegen side beaten 1-0 at home by Spurs in the 2008/09 Uefa Cup group stage.

Latest News


On Sunday, Ajax won a first Dutch Cup since 2010, and the 19th time in all, with a 4-0 defeat of Willem II in Rotterdam. Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored twice with Daley Blind and Rasmus Kristensen, registering his first senior Ajax goal, also on target.

Ajax have won 15 of their last 17 games, including the last six, in all competitions, the exceptions the quarterfinal first leg against Juventus and a 1-0 Eredivisie loss at AZ Alkmaar on 17 March.

Dušan Tadic, who converted two penalties in a 4-2 win against Vitesse on 23 April, has 17 goals in his last 18 Eredivisie matches and 21 in his last 28 in all competitions.

Ajax have now scored 165 goals in all competitions in 2018/19 (league 111, Uefa Champions League 33, Dutch Cup 21), surpassing AZ Alkmaar’s 1980/81 Dutch record of 158.

The 2-1 first-leg loss against Real Madrid in the round of 16 is Ajax’s sole home defeat in 26 games this season in all competitions (W21 D4).

Donny van de Beek’s last six goals for Ajax have all come in away matches.

Noussair Mazraoui and André Onana have both extended their Ajax contracts until 2022.

Mazraoui suffered an ankle injury in the second leg against Juventus, making his return as a second-half substitute in the first leg against Spurs.


Harry Kane and Lucas Moura will both make their 50th appearance in Uefa club competition when they next feature.

Tottenham have lost five of their last six matches in all competitions. They were beaten 1-0 at Bournemouth on Saturday having played the last 42 minutes with nine men after red cards for Heung-Min Son and halftime substitute Juan Foyth.

The 1-0 win at Dortmund in the round of 16 second leg is Tottenham’s sole success in their last ten away matches in all competitions – they have lost the other nine.

Spurs have won only five of their last 15 matches, losing nine.

Spurs have drawn only four of their 55 games in 2018/19 in all competitions (W32 L19).

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have kept seven clean sheets in their last 23 fixtures.

Tottenham have lost 19 games in all competitions this season, their most since 2008/09 when they suffered the same number of defeats. They have lost seven of their past 11 league games (W3 D1), as many defeats as they suffered in their previous 29 (W22).

Jan Vertonghen was substituted in the first half of the first leg after suffering a head injury in a collision involving Toby Alderweireld and Ajax goalkeeper André Onana; he missed the defeat at Bournemouth.

Kane was taken off in the quarterfinal first leg against Manchester City with what Spurs described as “a significant lateral ligament injury” to his left ankle.

Moussa Sissoko went off just before halftime in the quarterfinal second leg at Manchester City with a groin strain, returning as a substitute for Vertonghen in the first leg against Ajax; he was replaced late on at Bournemouth. Harry Winks has not played since the first leg of the City tie, also due to a groin problem.

Serge Aurier has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in Ivory Coast’s 3-0 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win against Rwanda on 23 March.

Erik Lamela, who has not played since the round of 16 second leg at Borussia Dortmund, has a hamstring injury