Juventus-Ajax: Amauri's Brace Gives Juve Crucial Away Win In Amsterdam
Amauri has been criticized by just about anybody who follows Juventus.
It's not like he hasn't deserved the criticism he has received. For almost the entire year of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, he wasn't doing what he was paid to do. His contributions were few and far between. At times, even though Juve had 11 players on the field, it seemed like they were playing a man down.
All of a sudden, Amauri is relevant again. His two vintage headers were the difference as Juventus defeated Ajax 2-1 in the first leg of the two teams' Europa League battle.
But, it wasn't all pretty.
Right off the bat Ajax were the better side. Unlike Juve, they were creating opportunities in the opening minutes.
Ajax opened the scoring in the 18th minute on a perfectly executed counter attack after a Juventus free kick. Miralem Sulejmani blew past Juve defender Jonathan Zebina with ease and beat an onrushing Gianluigi Buffon to put his side up one.
Juventus came right back but couldn't find the back of the net. Headers from Giorgio Chiellini and Amauri within a two minute span went wide of the goal and right at Ajax keeper Maaten Stekelenburg.
Minutes later Juve were again on the attack when Alessandro Del Piero and Diego combined nicely. The Juve captain played a quality through ball to Diego and forced a quality save out of Stekelenburg.
On 30 minutes, Juve got the equalizer they were fighting so hard to score. Del Piero nutmegged his defender and then hit a quality backheel to Paolo De Ceglie who played a perfect cross to Amauri. The Brazilian striker, who ended his four-month scoreless streak against Genoa over the weekend, did the rest and headed it home with authority.
Juve's goal didn't bother Ajax as they continued to throw people forward. Ajax captain Luis Suárez continued to run circles around the Juve defense. He seemed to be anywhere and everywhere whenever Ajax attacked. Suárez was on the back end of a Toby Alderweireld header that went just wide of Buffon's goal.
The second half began much like the first with Ajax putting pressure on the Juve defense. Urby Emanuelson teed one up from with his left foot from the edge of the box within seconds of the restart.
Despite the pressure, it was Juve who took the lead courtesy of Amauri's second goal of the night. Del Piero was again involved, this time sending in the cross to his partner up front. Amauri raised above his man and headed it into the back of the net.
For a guy who had been so absent and so incredibly worthless in front of goal for months and months, it sometimes make you think you're dreaming.
It went from bad to worse for Ajax as Suárez went into the book with a yellow card and will miss the return leg in Turin next week. It didn't ruin his spirits as he again was free around the box—only this time to be shut down by Chiellini.
Ajax came close to leveling the score when Siem De Jong smashed one from distance that went just wide of goal. Moments later Suárez saw his quick snapshot punched away by Buffon.
The Juve defense was under siege and the final 20 minutes of the game seemed to take forever.
Momo Sissoko did nothing to help ease the pressure, turning the ball over as he tried to turn into Momodinho and dribble past two defenders at once. Within seconds of gaining possession, Sissoko was turning it over to Jan Vertonghen, who saw his effort stopped by Nicola Legrottaglie before it reached the goal.
The pressure only got more intense. In the next two minutes, Ajax had two glorious De Jong opportunities.
First the Dutch midfielder saw his header go just wide and then his right-footed effort at the top of the box slammed off the right upright.
That was the last genuine opportunity Ajax would get despite Juve dropping all players back on defense and substitute Hasan Salihamidzic receiving a straight red for getting his boot close to De Jong's face.
Three long minutes of being a man down passed and the final whistle blew.
Juve weren't impressive, they certainly weren't pretty, but like the five of the past 10 times they had traveled to Amsterdam, the Bianconeri were coming home with a win.
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