Ajax withstands Lyon comeback to reach Europa League final

Ajax's Davy Klaassen celebrates reaching the final. (Laurent Cipriani/AP)

LYON, France — Ajax withstood a brilliant comeback from Lyon to reach the Europa League final despite a 3-1 away defeat on Thursday.

Ajax, a club chasing former glories after winning the last of its four European Cups in 1995 and leading 4-1 after the first leg, came through with a 5-4 victory on aggregate. It will take on Manchester United in the final on May 24.

"We ground it out with this young team," Ajax captain Davy Klaassen said. "I have no words for it."

Lyon looked to be out of contention after teenage forward Kasper Dolberg put the visitors ahead in the 27th minute to make it 5-1 on aggregate.

But Lyon top scorer Alexandre Lacazette netted twice inside a minute just before halftime to give Lyon hope.

With Ajax on the back foot, Lyon midfielder Rachid Ghezzal set up a frantic finish when his downward header from Poland midfielder Maciej Rybus’ excellent cross from the left made it 3-1 in the 81st.

It was made even more intense when Ajax centre back Nick Viergever was shown a second yellow card and sent off in the 84th minute for going in roughly on Nabil Fekir as he turned toward goal.

Lacazette volleyed over right back Rafael’s cross in the 86th and forward Maxwell Cornet’s shot grazed the right post in the 88th as Lyon went agonizingly close to forcing extra time.


Lyon’s players collapsed to the ground at the final whistle, some with their head in their hands. They had enough chances to force extra time and had only themselves to blame for not doing so.

"It’s obviously disappointing especially as we managed to win. We were so close to the final, it’s hard to take," Lacazette said. "We weren’t serious enough or good enough defensively in the first leg. It’s a pity."

Ajax will play United in Stockholm on May 24 after they both reached the final the hard way.

United conceded a late goal in a tension-filled 1-1 draw against Celta Vigo that ended with both teams having a man sent off. United advanced 2-1 on aggregate.

Lyon had a lot of early possession, but only had captain Maxime Gonalon’s tame header straight at goalkeeper Andre Onana from a corner to show for it.

Ajax then scored following a Lyon corner.

Onana’s long kick out was poorly dealt with by Lyon’s centre backs and German midfielder Amin Younes fed a quick pass to Dolberg in lots of space down the left. The 19-year-old Dane finished with a neat flick over the body of goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and into the bottom right corner.

Dolberg had scored in the first leg last week and is making a name for himself, having also netted 15 league goals this season.

Lyon was handed a lifeline just before halftime when 17-year-old defender Matthijs De Ligt was adjudged to have barged over Lacazette, although replays showed Lacazette let himself fall.

Lacazette confidently slotted in the penalty and, a minute later, scooped in Fekir’s pass from the right from close range.

But after Ghezzal’s header, Lacazette will remember his late missed volley for a few weeks yet.

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