Ajax returns to Champions League after 4 years away

Dynamo Kiev's Benjamin Verbic, right, looks as Ajax's players celebrate. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

AMSTERDAM — Four-time European champion Ajax qualified for the Champions League group stage on Tuesday for the first time in four years, while AEK Athens and Young Boys Bern ended even longer absences.

Ajax went to Dynamo Kyiv with a 3-1 lead and that was the final aggregate result after the Dutch team was held to a 0-0 draw despite dominating.

Dusan Tadic hit the post from the penalty spot and Hakim Ziyech curled a free kick onto the crossbar as Ajax failed to score despite recording 15 attempts on goal to Dynamo’s two. Tensions were high after Dynamo fans clashed with Ajax supporters outside a bar in Kyiv’s city centre ahead of the game.

Young Boys fans have waited 32 years since their team last played in Europe’s top competition. The Swiss team had lost in Champions League qualifying for the last three years but on Tuesday it beat Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 in the second leg for a 3-2 win on aggregate.

Veteran striker Guillaume Hoarau scored twice in three minutes with a penalty and a header to overturn Zagreb’s early lead.

AEK Athens beat Hungarian team Vidi 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw Tuesday, but there was a tense finish when AEK midfielder Helder Lopes was red-carded in the 80th minute. AEK was last in the Champions League group stage 12 years ago.

The losing teams will play in the Europa League group stage.

In Wednesday’s Champions League qualifiers, PAOK of Greece hosts Benfica with that fixture tied at 1-1, while PSV Eindhoven attempts to hold onto a 3-2 lead over BATE Borisov and Salzburg faces Red Star Belgrade following a goalless first leg.


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