Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Dusan Tadic warns Ajax need to play 'much better' in APOEL return leg if they are to reach Champions League group stages

The play-off round first-leg match ended scoreless but there was shortage of incident following Noussair Mazraoui's red card

Ajax forward Dusan Tadic has warned his teammates they need to play much better if they are to reach the group stages of the Champions League after holding on for a 0-0 draw away to Cypriot side APOEL in Nicosia.

The play-off round first-leg match ended scoreless but there was shortage of incident as the Dutch champions clung on after they were forced to play out the final 10 minutes with 10 men following Noussair Mazraoui's red card.

The four-time European Cup winners enjoyed a fairy-tale run to the semi-finals last season and fielded seven of the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg of last season's top four.

Erik ten Hag managed to retain the bulk of that squad over the summer with Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong the only big-name departures.

The visitors dominated the early exchanges to create a host of opportunities against their Cypriot opponents.

But the lively home attack, with 22-year-old Jordanian Musa Suleiman showing some eye-catching form, created the most dangerous chances.

Ajax resorted to roughhouse tactics and conceded a string of free kicks in the second half with Mazraoui's wild lunge on Uros Matic earning the Moroccan defender a second yellow card on 80 minutes.

Veteran striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who came on with 12 minutes left, had a clear opportunity to win the game in added time, but the 36-year-old's tame chip was cleared.

"We gave the ball away too easily and we must improve next week," Tadic said. "I expect the same compact defensive zone from APOEL in the second game. But we need to play much better."

While Ajax were disappointed with an away draw, Nicholas Ioannou, APOEL captain, was happy with his team's chances of pulling off a result when the two sides meet in next week's return leg in Amsterdam.

"We played really well," he said. "We defended very well and had some good chances at the other end to score. We were quite unlucky not to. We still believe we can go through."

A superbly executed Lukas Masopust volley saw Czech outfit Slavia Prague pull off a 1-0 victory away to Cluj.

Nicolae Stanciu played a 28th-minute corner to Masopust, lurking outside the penalty area. The midfielder flighted the ball into the far corner of the net with the gentlest of long-range volleys.

"We practiced those corner kicks two days ago and I couldn't hit the ball well," said Masopust adding that team captain Tomas Soucek "told me today to try it with the side-foot and it worked."

Cluj manager Dan Petrescu was less impressed.

"Was it a pass or a shot?" he asked. "It was like table tennis."

The Romanian side had an excellent chance to level the tie on 79 minutes but Ondrej Kolar saved French striker Billel Omrani penalty.

"I knew that the penalty-taking player always waits until the very last moment before kicking the ball, so I waited, did not lose my nerve and saved it," Kolar said. "It was my first saved penalty for Slavia."

Club Brugge take a 1-0 lead back to Belgium for their return against Austrian side Linz ASK.

Defender Gernot Trauner was caught in possession by Lois Openda and clumsily ran into the striker. Hans Vanaken slammed home the resulting spot kick.

Updated: September 6, 2019 08:24 AM

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