Football

Bosz plots Man United's downfall

Ajax end 21-year wait for a European final but their coach wants fitting end to fairy-tale run

Ajax Amsterdam coach Peter Bosz claimed the club's return to a European final for the first time in 21 years was "a victory for football".

Despite a nerve-wracking 3-1 defeat by Lyon in their Europa League semi-final, second-leg tie in France yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Dutch side progressed 5-4 on aggregate.

"The guys were great with the tension, had chances and scored with one", Bosz said in his post-match press conference.

"There was nothing going on until the last minute of the first half, when everything went wrong.

"Lyon started to believe in it, the crowd were behind them, and then, you know it is difficult. At half-time, I said, 'Do not panic'.

"But, in the end, especially after the red card for Nick Viergever, we had to survive.

"We have done that and the final result is beautiful. Call it a victory for football."

The Lyon defence was often outpaced in a lively start to the game and, midway through the first half, Ajax were rewarded.

Kasper Dolberg put the visitors ahead after 27 minutes, chipping the ball past Anthony Lopes after being set up by Amin Younes, who benefited from some poor defending by Rafael and Nicolas Nkoulou.

Alexandre Lacazette was brought down in the area just before the break and he converted the resulting penalty to give Lyon a lifeline.

One minute later, Lacazette gave the home side the advantage on the night when he latched onto a pass across goal from Nabel Fekir.

Ajax were on the back foot early in the second half, but Lyon lacked accuracy, until substitute Rachid Ghezzal's 81st-minute deflected header gave the Parc OL hope.

Maxwell Cornet's strike in the 87th whizzed past the post as Lyon increased the pressure, but the visitors held out until the final whistle.

Ajax's long wait for a European final is over, but Bosz said that was not the end of their quest as they prepare to face Manchester United in the final in Stockholm on May 24.

"A final play is nice but, in finals, you play to win," he added.

Lyon coach Bruno Genesio was satisfied with his side's performance, even if they came up short having left themselves too much to do following their 4-1 defeat in the first leg.

"I am very proud of my players. They went after them even. It is a cruel disappointment," he said.

"The players played a great match, we really rushed Ajax. Unfortunately, it was not enough."

Despite his double strike, Lacazette admitted that Lyon needed to be better in front of goal.

"We weren't far away from qualifying. We weren't clinical enough in front of goal and not effective enough defensively," said the striker, who has been battling a thigh injury which restricted him to just 15 minutes as a late substitute in Amsterdam a week ago.

"It could have been different if I'd been fit to start the first leg.

"Above all, we are disappointed with the way the first leg went.

"We gave it absolutely everything tonight and we were roared on by our supporters." - WIRE SERVICES