Ajax stun Ronaldo’s Juventus to reach Champions League semis

Cristiano Ronaldo's goal wasn't enough to Juve to progress. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
0

Ajax stun Ronaldo’s Juventus to reach Champions League semis

  • De Ligt struck midway through the second period to take his team to the semis

TURIN, Italy Ajax stunned Juventus to reach the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 1997 as Matthijs de Ligt’s thumping second-half header secured a 2-1 second-leg victory in the last eight in Turin on Tuesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo, bidding for his sixth Champions League title, scored a 28th-minute header to put Juve ahead after a 1-1 first-leg draw, but Donny van de Beek levelled for Ajax before half-time.
Teenage center-back De Ligt struck midway through the second period, though, to seal a 3-2 aggregate win and set up a last-four clash with either Manchester City or Tottenham.
The young Dutch side had already eliminated three-time defending champions Real Madrid en route to the quarters, overturning a 2-1 home defeat against the Spanish side with a memorable 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Juventus had been looking to reach the Champions League semifinals for the third time in the past five seasons.
But Ronaldo, who scored an away goal last week with a diving header in Amsterdam, was Juve’s only weapon against the impressive Dutch side.
The 34-year-old was signed for 100 million euros ($117 million) last summer from Real Madrid in a bid to win the European trophy for the first time since 1996, when they beat Ajax in the final.
Massimiliano Allegri had been forced to reshuffle his side because of injuries, with Paulo Dybala returning in place of the injured Mario Mandzukic, while captain Giorgio Chiellini was also sidelined.
Ajax’s defense took a hit when Noussair Mazraoui, who had replaced the suspended Nicolas Tagliafico, limped off on 11 minutes with an ankle injury, with Daley Sinkgraven coming on.
Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana dived to keep out a scorching Dybala half-volley in the 20th minute.
But Ronaldo latched onto a Miralem Pjanic corner with a downward header that left Onana without no chance.
It was the Portugal star’s 126th Champions League goal and sixth of this campaign, having now scored in his past six European games against Ajax, netting nine goals in total.
But Van de Beek soon silenced the cheers of the home crowd when he controlled a wayward Hakim Ziyech shot six minutes later, rolling the ball past Szczesny to cancel out Juventus’ away goal and make it 2-2 on aggregate.
Teenage striker Moise Kean replaced Dybala after the break, but it was the Dutch who turned on the style, with only Szczesny’s reflexes keeping Juventus in the tie.
The Polish keeper denied Ziyech from close range with one hand, and minutes later tipped Van de Beek’s curling effort over the bar.
The Juventus back-line struggled with the pace of the Dutch team with Pjanic doing well to deny Ziyech a tap-in.
But Erik ten Hag’s side’s incessant pressure paid off with 19-year-old skipper De Ligt towering above Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani to head home Lasse Schone’s corner on 67 minutes.
Ziyech looked as if he had fired a third past Szczesny, but his goal was ruled offside after a VAR check.
And the Dutch visitors held on, with Ronaldo unable to make a difference after his incredible hat-trick had pulled Juventus into the quarter-finals in the last-16 win over Atletico Madrid.
Four-time winners Ajax won their third consecutive title in 1973 at the expense of Juventus, and last lifted the trophy in 1995, with their last semifinal appearances ending in defeat by Juve 22 years ago.


Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

Updated 21 May 2019
0

Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

  • The two-time defending NBA champions reach the title series for a fifth consecutive season
  • The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics

LOS ANGELES: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both posted triple-doubles to power the Golden State Warriors to a 119-117 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and into a fifth straight NBA Finals.
The two-time defending NBA champions reached the title series for a fifth consecutive season with the triumph in Portland, sweeping the Blazers in four games in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics, when they went to a record 10 in a row from 1957 to 1966.
The Warriors will battle for the title starting on May 30 against either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors, aiming to become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers of 2000, 2001 and 2002 to three-peat as champions.
Curry and Green became the first teammates in league history to have triple-doubles in the same post-season game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Curry finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, while Green had his second straight triple-double — posting double digits in three key statistical categories — with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Fittingly, Curry and Green combined on the game-winning basket in overtime, Curry feeding Green for a three-pointer that pushed Golden State to a 119-115 lead with 39.6 seconds left in overtime.
The Trail Blazers had led 69-65 at halftime, and built the lead to 17 in the third quarter.
But Golden State, playing without injured superstar Kevin Durant as well as DeMarcus Cousins and veteran Andre Iguodala, chipped away, scoring the last nine points of the third period to close within 95-87 and knotting the score at 104-104 on Curry’s layup with 4:34 left in regulation.
Both teams had a chance to win in regulation, but Curry traveled before draining a three-pointer that didn’t count and Lillard was unable to get through in traffic as time expired with the score tied 111-111.
Portland star Lillard, playing with painful separated ribs, finished with 28 points while unheralded Meyers Leonard led the Trail Blazers with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
CJ McCollum added 26 for the Trail Blazers, but it wasn’t enough for a team that had fended off elimination twice in their second-round series against the Denver Nuggets.