Ajax to play PAOK of Greece in Champions League qualifying

UEFA Deputy Secretary-General Giorgio Marchetti during the drawing of the matches for the Champions League 2019/20 third qualifying round at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Monday. (AP)
Updated 22 July 2019

Ajax to play PAOK of Greece in Champions League qualifying

  • Ajax now start one qualifying round later — on Aug. 6 or 7

NYON, SWITZERLAND: Last season’s semifinalist Ajax will start their Champions League campaign against unbeaten Greek title winner PAOK Thessaloniki in the third qualifying round, after the draw was made Monday.

Four-time European champion Ajax began in the second preliminary round last July and was one minute from the final before being eliminated by Tottenham’s stoppage-time winning goal in May.

As the Dutch league winner, Ajax now start one qualifying round later — on Aug. 6 or 7, with the first leg in Greece — needing to beat two opponents instead of three to join the elite 32-team group stage.

However, Ajax return after selling star midfielder Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona and teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus, and got the toughest possible opposition.

Ajax were the highest-ranked seeded team and PAOK were highest ranked in the pot of unseeded teams after being the only unbeaten league winner in Europe last season. Both are in the draw section just for national champions.

Porto, a two-time European champion, were paired with Krasnodar in a separate qualifying path for teams that placed second or third in higher-ranked leagues.

Also, Dynamo Kiev will face Club Brugge, and Austria’s LASK will take on either PSV Eindhoven, the 1988 European champion, or Basel.

UEFA had to intervene to keep the Russian and Ukraine teams apart and uphold a rule imposed in 2014 across all its competitions for security reasons.

Dynamo Kiev were drawn against Krasnodar, then shifted down to the next fixture slot as the away team. UEFA has separated clubs from the two countries since Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine. 

Porto were drawn next and paired with Krasnodar.

First-leg games are played Aug. 6-7, and return games on Aug. 13.

The second qualifying round has yet to be played. It begins Tuesday and will be completed on July 31.

Dutch league winners and runners-up have to enter the qualifying rounds because the country has slipped in UEFA’s rankings. Each nation is graded by its clubs’ results in European club competitions in a rolling five-year assessment.

However, Ajax’s acclaimed run to the semifinals means the Dutch title winners this season are almost certain to go directly into the Champions League group stage next year.

Ajax edged PAOK 3-2 on aggregate when the teams met in the third qualifying round three years ago.

Since then, PAOK won their first Greek title in 34 years to continue a revival during the ownership of Russian-Greek businessman Ivan Savvidis.

Greek runners-up Olympiakos, which face Viktoria Plzen in the second qualifying round, will play Turkey’s league runners-up Istanbul Basaksehir if they advance.

Teams which are eliminated in the third qualifying round transfer across to the Europa League, in either the playoff round in August or direct to the 48-team group stage in September.

In the Europa League third qualifying round draw, third-place Dutch team Feyenoord were paired with Dinamo Tbilisi or Gabala. AEK Athens, the 2018 champion of Greece, will play either Honved or Universitatea Craiova.


Aguero reaches 400 goals in Man City stroll, Newcastle stun Spurs

Updated 3 min 55 sec ago

Aguero reaches 400 goals in Man City stroll, Newcastle stun Spurs

  • Argentine striker inspired the champions’ 3-1 win at Bournemouth
  • Raheem Sterling was also on the scoresheet — making it six goals in four games this term

London: Sergio Aguero reached 400 career goals as the Manchester City striker inspired the champions’ 3-1 win at Bournemouth, while Tottenham suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against Newcastle on Sunday.
With Premier League leaders Liverpool off to a perfect start with three successive victories, City are already under pressure to keep pace.
Pep Guardiola’s side did just that thanks to Aguero as City’s record goalscorer hit another milestone with a clinical double in the south-coast sunshine.
Raheem Sterling was also on the scoresheet — making it six goals in four games this term for the England winger — as City’s second win of the season lifted them to within two points of Liverpool.
It was a landmark day all round for City, with captain David Silva involved in all three of the goals on his 400th appearance for the club.
“We felt Bournemouth’s physicality, a nice three points and a big compliment to the players, a few things to improve, that’s good it’s happened when we are winning games,” Guardiola said.
“The quality of our players in front made the difference and we won the game.”
Guardiola was less enthused by a VAR review that denied City a penalty when Jefferson Lerma appeared to trip Silva.
City were last week left frustrated during a 2-2 draw with Tottenham when a last-gasp goal from Gabriel Jesus was disallowed by VAR due to a contentious handball against Aymeric Laporte.
Asked if City deserved a spot-kick, Guardiola replied in an sardonic manner: “No, no, no. Penalty? No.
“It was clear hands last game, clear hands. A penalty today? No, please.
“The challenge this season will be amazing for us after winning back-to-back two titles, the challenge will be great.”
Meanwhile, Steve Bruce silenced his critics as Newcastle won at Tottenham to secure their first points under the polarizing Magpies boss.
Since taking over from Rafael Benitez in the close-season, Bruce had found himself under pressure after losing his first two games, with fans doubting his credentials and former players claiming his squad were uncertain about his methods.
But Joelinton first goal for Newcastle in the 27th minute gave Bruce some breathing space for a few days at least.
Davinson Sanchez was caught playing the offside trap, allowing Brazilian forward Joelinton to collected Christian Atsu’s inch-perfect ball and fire home.
Newcastle were helped by a poor performance from Tottenham, who have won only once in their first three games.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were frustrated by VAR after the decision-review system ruled not to award a penalty when Harry Kane had tumbled under a challenge from Jamaal Lascelles.
Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen was only used as a substitute amid uncertainty surrounding his future ahead of the European transfer window shutting next week.
In the day’s other game, Wolves forward Raul Jimenez scored a stoppage-time penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw against Burnley at Molineux.
Ashley Barnes had put Burnley in front after 13 minutes with a blistering strike, giving the forward four goals in three games this season.
But Jimenez netted from the spot in the 97th minute after the Mexican was tripped by Erik Pieters.
Wolves have drawn all three of their league games this term.