Allegri hails Ronaldo as Juve labour against Ajax

Cristiano Ronaldo scoring with a diving header on the stroke of half-time to give Juventus a precious away goal against Ajax in the 1-1 draw in the Champions League quarter-final first leg in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo scoring with a diving header on the stroke of half-time to give Juventus a precious away goal against Ajax in the 1-1 draw in the Champions League quarter-final first leg in Amsterdam on Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

AMSTERDAM • With 64 goals in the knockout stages, there remains no better clutch player in Champions League history than Cristiano Ronaldo, a lesson that Ajax learnt the hard way on Wednesday.

The burgeoning Dutch side, who are likely to be broken up at the end of this campaign, had 61 per cent possession of the ball and were fluent in attack as they showed their elimination of Real Madrid in the previous round was no fluke.

Erik ten Hag's men also peppered Wojciech Szczesny's goal with 19 shots, although only six were on target. If there is anything his team lack, it is the presence of a clinical forward like Ronaldo.

While Juventus had to "suffer" in front of a raucous Johan Cruyff Arena, they can boast of the competition's record scorer (125). And, in his first game in a month, all Ronaldo needed was one chance - a diving header to give his team the upper hand for the quarter-final reverse fixture at home on April 16.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri hailed Ronaldo as "on a different level" after their only shot on target yielded a hard-fought 1-1 draw, with Brazilian winger David Neres equalising for Ajax.

The Italian, who is looking to guide his team to their first Champions League trophy since 1996, said: "His timing and movement are different to everyone else's, there's nothing you can do about it. He is a player who just has a different technique than the others.

  • 64 

  • Cristiano Ronaldo's goals in the Champions League knockout stages, more than any player including Lionel Messi (42) in second place and even some clubs: 

    53 Arsenal 
    49 Liverpool 
    38 Dortmund/PSG/Porto 
    34 Lyon 
    33 Atletico Madrid, Inter, Monaco 
    31 Ajax

"Ajax have great quality, but we defended well and finished the game better. It's a good result because we scored away from home, so the tie is still open.

"We were good defensively, nice and compact. There is good reason to think we can get to the semi-finals. We have great respect for Ajax, but you have to be ready."

Ten Hag admitted that it "isn't exactly what we were hoping for, but it is still a good result".

The Dutchman said: "The last time we lost 2-1 at home to Real Madrid, so everything is still alive for us. In a lot of the phases of the game, we were better. We were excellent in our transitions."

However, he acknowledged that with Ronaldo as the spearhead, his men will be up against it as "they are quick to pounce on a mistake".

He added: "You saw that with the goal of Cristiano Ronaldo. Even if you are running with him and tracking back, he is incredibly quick."

Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, who is heavily rumoured to make a blockbuster move in the summer, also called on his teammates not to be overawed in Turin.

He said: "It's not for nothing we have made it to the quarter-finals. In the return leg, we'll have to give everything because Juventus are incredibly difficult."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2019, with the headline 'Allegri hails Ronaldo as Juve labour against Ajax'. Print Edition | Subscribe