Until the 45th minute of Ajax's second leg match in the Europa League semis, they clearly dominated Lyon and it seemed the Dutch side would cruise to Europa League final in Stockholm.
Nevertheless, at that moment the worst that could happen, happened to Ajax as momentum shifted in the most radical way possible. Two consecutive goals within one minute of each other by Lyon striker Lacazette gave hope to Parc Olympique Lyonnais, and the second half was a completely different story than the previous 135 minutes.
What determined the nature of the second half was entirely the horrors of conceding two goals, in quick succession, affecting Ajax players. Rather than taking the occasion as an accident, the Dutch side abandoned their usual offensive game and sat deep in their own half.
First of all, in order to understand these two different results and game styles, we need to first understand what happened in Netherlands.
Unlike Turkish side Beşiktaş, Ajax saw the defensive deficiencies of Lyon, which are mainly created by their offensive frenzy. To be more specific, I think Lyon is by far the most unstable team as far as defense concerned in the higher European arena, and Ajax swept them out by simply positioning more men between Lyon's defense and midfield, where Lyon left huge spaces. Thus, the result was a dramatic one for a Europa League semi-final, Ajax maintained the attacking flow and as their opponent's line between defense and offense was broken, the one goal they conceded was due to their own complacent attitude.
On the other hand, the game in France also started in the same manner, with Ajax being more cautious in defense. Nevertheless, until the end of the first half, the result was the same, Ajax had the lead and they were complacently moving towards the finale.
At that moment, the disaster that struck them was a real test; a test designed to see whether the team had the character to stand tall throughout the rest of the game. Surely, Ajax players put in a great effort in the second half and they deserved the finale, but the game they played unfortunately changed dramatically.
The team which had dominated the previous 135 minutes were gone, and just like Beşiktaş's futile efforts to solely defend their goal in Parc Olympique Lyonnais, they wholeheartedly left the driving seat for Lyon and almost presented with the tickets to the final.
Except in the last ten minutes, when they were down to ten men and Lyon needed only one goal for the extra time, Ajax had no more reason left to act out their passive role.
The idea of conceding another goal after the two by Lacazette was seemingly so horrifying for Ajax players and coach Peter Bosz that they did not even think about scoring another and finishing the Lyon's hopes in the first place.
Nevertheless, if they face Manchester United in the same manner, they will only make it easier for Mourinho to clinch the Champions League ticket because this type of petrified reaction from the opponent is what the Special One wants.
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