The Associated PressAMSTERDAM (AP) — After showing no fear against Real Madrid, a young Ajax squad didn’t back down against Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus either.
Ajax replied quickly after Ronaldo scored on the stroke of halftime Wednesday, with David Neres equalizing 30 seconds after the break to secure a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.
“I think we’ve done pretty well. We have a team with a lot of potential and that tends to emerge to its fullest in Champions League matches,” said Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax’s 19-year-old captain and center back. “We proved today that Ajax is not in the Champions League quarterfinals because it’s a fluke.”
Showing increasing confidence, Ajax produced more chances early on but then let Ronaldo waltz through to head in a cross in the 45th minute.
Ronaldo was returning from a two-week injury layoff.
In the first minute of the second half, David Neres capitalized on an error from Juventus winger Jose Cancelo — who provided the cross for Ronaldo’s goal — and curled a shot into the far top corner. Juventus nearly won when Douglas Costa hit the post in the 85th.
The second leg is scheduled for next Tuesday in Turin, with the winner to face Manchester City or Tottenham in the semifinals.
“Everything is open. We need to go to the [Allianz] stadium and try to win it,” Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said. “But as we showed against Atletico [Madrid], we know how to win at home in this competition.”