Ajax Amsterdam and Olympique Lyonnais served up a rather entertaining early game in today’s slate of Champions League and Europa League matches, with the home side from Holland winning 4-1 in this Europa League semifinal first leg. The score just as easily could’ve been double or even triple that, with Ajax putting a remarkable 16 shots on target from 24 taken and Lyon not lagging too far behind with 8 on target from 14. Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes stood on his head multiple times and still had to pick the ball out of his net four times.
Two of those goals belonged to Chelsea loanee Bertrand Traoré, who also grabbed an assist to complete an all-around excellent man of the match performance. After a slow start for Ajax, Traoré glanced his team into the lead with a clinical header.
With another header, the scorer then turned provider ten minutes later as he set up Kasper Dolberg to double Ajax’s lead. Traoré pounced on a poor clearance from the Lyon goalkeeper to win the aerial duel and put Dolberg through on goal in one fell swoop.
Traoré wasn’t done yet. Halfway through the second-half, after Lyon had closed the gap to 3-1, the 21-year-old found himself on the end of a flowing Ajax move, finishing with aplomb from Hakim Ziyech’s cross. It was Ziyech’s third assist of the day, but there was wonderful movement all around, including from the Chelsea loanee himself.
Traoré hasn’t had the most consistent of seasons and he hasn’t always impressed the Ajax faithful, but he’s still managed to collect 13 goals and 6 assists in 36 appearances and now looks to have played a huge part in getting Ajax to their first European final since the glory days of the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s. Now they just have to finish the job in next week’s second leg for a chance to play against the winner of Celta de Vigo and Manchester United (probably the latter).
Incidentally, Ajax’s last European final was the 1996 Champions League final, which they lost on penalty kicks to a Juventus side featuring future Chelsea Blues Gianluca Vialli (captain that day) and Didier Deschamps, who was partnering a certain Antonio Conte (no.8) in midfield.