Ajax turn on the style to put one foot in Europa League final
Ajax 4 Lyon 1
Bertrand Traore scored twice as Ajax ran out comprehensive winners in a pulsating Europa League semi-final first-leg clash against Lyon at Amsterdam Arena.
The on-loan Chelsea forward opened the scoring on 25 minutes before setting up teenage striker Kasper Dolberg for a second as a youthful Ajax side blew away their French opponents in the first half.
Amin Younes added a third just after half-time and Traore rounded off the scoring for the hosts moments after Mathieu Valbuena had grabbed Lyon's away goal on 66 minutes.
The visitors actually made the brighter start and could have been ahead on 10 minutes had Maxwell Cornet converted Lucas Tousart's cross from close range.
Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana made a fine save to deny the Lyon forward with his legs and the Cameroon international watched a couple of early Valbuena deliveries drift harmlessly wide.
Nabil Fekir was also wasteful from his first effort on 21 minutes and it proved costly when Ajax took the lead four minutes later. Hakim Ziyech's inswinging free-kick was probably destined for the far corner but Traore got the faintest of touches to head the ball in.
That lead was doubled on 34 minutes when 19-year-old Dolberg darted between a static Lyon defence from Traore's header to lash home his fifth Europa League goal of the season. Younes was denied a third on the stroke of half-time, after combining well with Davy Klaassen on the edge of the area, with the German's shot well saved by Anthony Lopes.
Younes made amends four minutes after the break, though, by converting the impressive Ziyech's pass with a deflected shot which crept past Lopes and over the line.
Fekir kept Onana's palms warm with a crisp left-footed effort on 52 minutes and Dolberg did the same with Lopes at the other end as Ajax pressed for a fourth.
Traore tested Lopes once more before Lyon grabbed a goal on 66 minutes through Valbuena, who precisely struck past Onana from 15 yards after Lasse Schone's weak defensive header.
Lyon could smell blood and sub Rachid Ghezzal teed up Fekir but the France forward failed to convert when through on Onana's goal. Traore, the 21-year-old Burkina Faso international, made Lyon pay for their profligacy by converting another fantastic Ziyech cross on 71 minutes to restore Ajax's three-goal cushion.
Caution was thrown to the wind by Lyon, who were denied by an excellent double save by Onana from Ghezzal and Rafael, but the Ligue 1 side also left themselves open to the counter-attack.
Younes, Klaassen, Ziyech and substitute Donny van de Beek all tried to add to Ajax's advantage in the closing stages but Lyon somehow held firm to retain a slim hope of overturning the deficit in France next Thursday.
Independent.ie Comments Facility
INM has taken the decision to remove the commenting facility on its online platform Independent.ie to minimise the legal risk to our business that arises from Ireland's draconian libel awards system.
We continue to look forward to receiving comments through direct email contact or via social media, some of which may still be featured on the website Independent.ie