Ajax grabs an away advantage in Tottenham Stadium thanks to an early strike from Donny Van De Beek.
Not just the defeat, although that was bad enough, and leaves them needing a victory in Amsterdam to progress to the Champions League final. What has also been surrendered in a matter of days is Tottenham’s air of invincibility in their wonderful new stadium. Having not so much as conceded a goal here, Tottenham has now suffered two defeats in four days, and not small ones either.
Losing to local irritants West Ham could be dismissed as a blip, although with the battle for the top four places far from over, it may potentially assume greater significance. Yet conceding here a second time, and being second best to Ajax for long periods – particularly in the first-half – shows that good foundations support more than just architecture. Tottenham need a team as impressive as their new home and, until they get that, there will always be frustrations.
On the plus side, it could have been worse. Had David Neres’ shot on 78 minutes not hit a post, Tottenham could have been close to out of the competition altogether.
For a variety of reasons, it was a horrid first 45 minutes for Tottenham. Ajax was the better side, scored an away goal, had the best of the chances and, to add injury to insult, Vertonghen was lost to a spiteful head wound that may be compounded with a concussion that will keep him out of the return leg next Wednesday.
From the start, Tottenham did not look entirely comfortable. Davinson Sanchez was caught in possession by Donny van de Beek and needed to recover frantically to concede nothing more serious than a corner. The warning signs were there early.
Neres was getting in behind Tottenham on the right, Dusan Tadic was linking play neatly as always and van de Beek is the type of smart, inventive forward midfield player that the Dutch produce as if from an assembly line. As their control of the game mounted, it was only a matter of time before Ajax did serious damage.