A fairytale with an unhappy ending – De Jong

by Sacha Pisani

Frenkie de Jong believes Ajax deserved to reach the Champions League final, labelling the club’s European run as a fairytale with an unhappy ending.

Ajax conceded a dramatic 96th-minute goal against Tottenham, who claimed a last-gasp 3-2 victory to progress 3-3 on away goals in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

After stunning holders Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semi-finals, Ajax appeared on track to reach their first European decider since 1996 thanks to captain Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.

De Ligt and Ziyech scored in the first half to put Ajax 2-0 ahead on the night and 3-0 on aggregate before Lucas Moura’s second-half hat-trick spoiled the Dutch party midweek.

Reflecting on the match, De Jong – who is set to join Barcelona at the end of the season – said: “I think we deserved to reach the final, given the way we played throughout the tournament and also in the first half tonight. In saying that, Spurs also earned their right with that second-half performance

“I think everyone enjoyed what we did in the Champions League this season, it was like a fairytale. Unfortunately, it was one with an unhappy ending. So disappointing to give it away in the last few seconds.

“We showed in patches what we were capable of. But in the second half they caused us a lot of problems. It is indeed the third tie in a row in which we’ve won away but failed to do so at home. I don’t really know why.

“We always try to play the same, home or away. And if we’d kept up our first-half performance we could definitely have won this evening.”

Ajax star Ziyech hit the post in the second half before Lucas slotted home the dramatic winner for Spurs in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

“This hits us hard, really hard,” Ziyech told Veronica TV. “I don’t know how it happened. I just don’t know.

“We knew it would be very difficult if they scored after the 2-2, but we had chances. I could have scored, hit the post. At least one of my chances should have gone in. Then it would have been over, but then it struck us hard. I blame myself for this. We gave our all. The play wasn’t great, but we kept fighting. Now disappointment prevails.”