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Haller double seals top spot for Ajax, Inter on brink of last 16 after Dzeko downs Shakhtar

Inter’s was a huge win with their final group match at the Santiago Bernabeu against Madrid in a fortnight’s time.

Sebastien Haller celebrates (file pic).
Sebastien Haller celebrates (file pic).
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Besiktas 1

Ajax 2

SEBASTIEN HALLER CAME off the bench to score twice as Ajax battled back to beat Besiktas 2-1 in Turkey on Wednesday and wrap up top spot in their Champions League group.

The Dutch champions maintained their 100%record in Group C with a fifth win in as many games.

Haller has now scored a remarkable nine goals in this season’s competition.

Ajax only needed a point to be sure of top spot, but were dealt an early blow as full-back Noussair Mazraoui handled from a corner and a penalty was awarded following a VAR review.

Algeria midfielder Rachid Ghezzal stepped up to lash a fine spot-kick into the top corner and give Besiktas a 22nd-minute lead.

An end-to-end game saw Dusan Tadic and Mohamed Daramy both go close for Ajax, but the best chance for a second goal before the break fell to Besiktas striker Cyle Larin, only for the Canada international’s poor first touch to let him down.

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, linked with the vacant Manchester United manager’s job this week, sent on Haller at half-time.

The Ivory Coast forward made an impact just nine minutes later, tapping in after a sweeping move.

Haller completed the turnaround midway through the second half, rifling the ball into the top corner to draw level with Bayer Munich striker Robert Lewandowski at the top of this season’s Champions League goalscoring chart.

The former West Ham man had another effort ruled out for offside late on, but that did not dampen a fine outing for Ajax.

Inter 2


milan-italy-24-october-2021-edin-deko-of-fc-internazionale-celebrates-after-scoring-a-goal-during-the-serie-a-italian-football-championship-match-fc-internazionale-vs-juventus-at-san-siro-stadium Inter striker Edin Dzeko. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

In Milan, Edin Dzeko fired Inter to within touching distance of the last 16 with a brace in a 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk which gives his side the chance of making the knockouts for the first time in a decade.

Inter now need Real Madrid to manage at least a draw with Sheriff Tiraspol later in Spain to secure their spot in next month’s draw with a match to spare thanks to two archetypal Dzeko goals in the space of six minutes midway through the second half.

The Bosnia forward lashed Inter into the lead with a precision first-time strike from the edge of the area and then nodded home a header to put the San Siro in party mood after the hosts had wasted a host of chances and had two goals ruled out for tight decisions.

Inter top Group D on 10 points after their third consecutive win in the competition, a point ahead of Madrid and four away from Sheriff in third.

It was a huge win with Inter’s final group match at the Santiago Bernabeu against Madrid in a fortnight’s time.

Barella wasted a golden opportunity to give Inter the lead with 11 minutes on the clock, somehow skying when Ivan Perisic’s deflected cross fell to him only yards from the Shakhtar goal.

Then a flurry of gilt-edged chances came and went midway through the first half, with the San Siro crowd wondering how the scores were still level.


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First Lautaro Martinez had two shots well blocked by Maycon in the 22nd minute after a lightning break from Barella, then Andrea Ranocchia headed a corner just wide before Ivan Perisic rolled home a calm finish only for the home fans to be silenced by an extremely tight offside decision.

Seconds later Dzeko looked on in horror as Anatolii Trubin scrambled to stop him from tucking home the opener after sloppy Shakhtar play out from the back.

Just four minutes had passed from Martinez’s chance to when Dzeko then had a header well saved by Trubin, and in the middle of all that Fernando blasted a shot wide when he had a teammate wide open in front of goal.

An already strange match took on a further bizarre turn just before the hour mark when Martinez brilliantly lashed home what he thought was the opener, only for the goal to be ruled out for his foul on Mykola Matviyenko while he was still celebrating and the stadium announcer was still bellowing out his name.

However moments later Dzeko did finally rattle in a goal that couldn’t be ruled out when after Matteo Darmian’s low shot was charged down at the end of a flowing break the Bosnian crashed in his ninth goal in all competitions this season.

And he made sure the home supporters would go home happy, heading home the impressive Perisic’s delicate cross in the 67th minute and celebrating with the delirious fans behind the goal.

Those supporters’ hearts were in their mouths with eight minutes left when Dodo charged into dozing Inter’s area and thumped a low shot off the near post which rolled across the goalline and somehow missed both lunging feet and the opposite post.

But that was that from Shakhtar and Inter are now achingly close to an objective they’ve failed to meet since the 2011/12 season.

© – AFP, 2021

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