Juve seal Ajax win
By Graeme Bailey. Last Updated: 23/11/04 9:35pm
Ajax's faint hopes of reaching the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League ended after a 1-0 defeat to Juventus in Turin.
The Dutch giants knew their hopes were slim before kick-off but needed victory at least.
However, in what turned out to be a fairly dull encounter - the only goal of the game came early on through Uruguayan star Marcelo Zalayeta.
Neither team looked to, or did, dominate the opening exchanges as they looked to get the measure of each other.
Ajax particularly were sitting deep, not looking to let their former marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic have too much room.
Unfortunately for Ajax, their resistance did not last long as Juve went ahead after 14 minutes.
The move came as Mauro Camoranesi disposed Maxwell on Ajax's left, the Italian winger took the ball on to the edge of the area before feeding Zalayeta and he fired home from 15 yards leaving Hans Vonk with little chance in goal.
Ajax were forced to push forward and the exciting Argentine Mauro Rosales was beginning to find some space.
The Dutch side were then denied by a wonderful save from Gianluigi Buffon as he dived full stretch to his left to parry Rafael van der Vaart's wonderfully struck free kick.
Van der Vaart then picked up a yellow along with Uruguayan Paolo Montero, as the pair squared up following a nasty challenge on the Ajax skipper.
Ajax were probing, but it was still Juve looking the more likely and they should have added to their lead on more than one occasion.
Pavel Nedved broke brilliantly from midfield and picked out Zalayeta on the right, he squared for Ibrahimovic who could only fire over.
The Swede was guilty of a number of misses against his ex-club and he again fired over just before the interval after yet more nice play from Nedved.
The Czech schemer was again pulling the strings soon into the second half and he whipped over a wonderful cross which just evaded Emerson and Montero.
Young Ajax substitute Ryan Babel was looked to make an instant impact on the game and he squandered a good chance as he blasted well over from the edge of the area when he had plenty of time.
Juventus should then have doubled their lead when Ibrahimovic played a delightful chip into Nedved, he lobbed the ball over Vonk and Ajax scrambled the ball away, but only as far as Emerson whose bullet header was cleared off the line superbly by Maxwell.
Ajax were now pushing forward in numbers looking for something and that meant Juve could catch them on the break more and more, with Camoranesi, Nedved and Emerson all breaking at will from midfield.
Still Ajax had their chances and young Babel was starting to have an impact on the game, and he was really unlucky just after the hour as his turn and shot just zipped past the post.
Wesley Sneijder was introduced by Ajax coach Ronald Koeman as he looked to add some spark and he almost created an immediate impact as he crossed in on the volley after his initial corner was cleared - but Brazilian Maxwell could not convert his header from close range.
Sneijder was again causing trouble more trouble as his curling ball into the box found Zdenek Grygera, but like his defensive colleague Maxwell, the Czech could not find the target when well placed.
Juventus had a great chance late on as Olivier Kapo won a free kick right on the edge of the Ajax area, but fellow substitute Ruben Olivera could only fire wide of the post.
Juve's impressive record remains intact at the top of Group C, but Ajax are still unsure of their future as both themselves and Maccabi are left to fight it out for third place and the Uefa Cup spot.
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