After an unlikely 2-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has hailed an important evening in the club’s history.
After a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam, things started well for Juventus, with Cristiano Ronaldo heading home just before the half hour, but Donny van de Beek levelled moments later, and Matthijs De Ligt got the Dutch side’s second not long after the hour.
“It’s an unforgettable evening for Ajax, beat one of the Champions League favourites,” Ten Hag told the press. “We played with confidence and patience, and held out against Juventus pressure.
“It was a good fight with few chances for both teams. At the interval we spoke about Emre Can and how we had to pressure him using the wide players.
“Then with Schone and De Jong playing closer together, we used the spaces which came up in attack. I am very happy and proud of my players and staff.
“It’s very hard to play against us, and it is tough to press the technical player we have. Even defensively, our varied way of pressing is an important weapon, and makes it difficult for others.”
Frankie De Jong has already sealed a deal with Barcelona, and given Ajax’s great run in the Champions League, more players are expected to leave the club in the summer.
“If we play well, it’s normal for players to leave,” Ten Hag said. “We are not Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City or Juventus.
“Everything depends on the footballing economy, but we are creative in building a balanced team. We have a philosophy and we will continue that in the coming years.
“We will fight for each player, and I hope not to lose too many, but if they go to other teams, the Ajax youth system is strong.”
With Ajax getting to their first Champions League semi-final since 1997, Ten Hag feels this is an important moment for Dutch football in general.
“The domestic game has been getting worse and worse for many years,” he continued. “Now it is coming back and we are helping it. Every country has good times and bad times.
“We [the Netherlands] are a small footballing country, and sometimes things don’t go how we want, but there are incredible talents coming through and with that, things can only get better.”
Following victory in Turin, Ajax will now face either Tottenham or Manchester City in the semi-finals, and Ten Hag has no fear.
“We have already been to many countries so far on this journey,” Ten Hag stated. “England is the next challenge: Guardiola’s philosophy is close to mine.
“Now I don’t know much about the details of the two teams to analyse them, but if we play like we did against Real Madrid and Juventus, we have to have confidence.
“We have our footballing culture, and so does England. It is beautiful and I can’t wait to go there.”