Paris stunned by Ajax
Paris Saint-Germain lost 2-0 to Ajax Amsterdam on Matchday 1 of the UEFA Women's Champions League group stage, at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Wednesday 15 November. Here's a look back at the match.
A month after eliminating Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in the return leg of the UEFA Women's Champions League play-off (3-1), Paris Saint-Germain returned to Europe's most prestigious competition to begin the group phase. And for this first duel, the Parisians had a date at the legendary Johan Cruijff Arena to take on Ajax Amsterdam and make a successful start to the competition.
Jocelyn Prêcheur fielded a central defence of Elisa De Almeida and Clare Hunt, with Constance Picaud in goal. On the flanks, Sakina Karchaoui occupied the left while Jade Le Guilly took up a position on the right. In midfield, captain Grace Geyoro was supported by Jackie Groenen and Korbin Albert. Up front, Marie-Antoinette Katoto made another start at centre-forward, while Tabitha Chawinga and Sandy Baltimore were assigned to the wings.
To the cheers of the Dutch crowd, the first chance fell to Les Rouge et Bleu when Tabitha Chawinga won possession high up the pitch thanks to some strong pressing. The striker picked out Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who saw the 'keeper off her line and took a chance from distance - but without success. But it was the home side who saw more of the ball in the opening stages, forcing Paris to look for opportunities in attacking transitions. This was an unusual approach for the capital club's players as they relied on the speed and impact of Chawinga and Sandy Baltimore to create openings.
Indeed, it was the two Paris Saint-Germain wingers who created the side's best chance on the half-hour mark, when Baltimore skinned her opposite number before cutting back on her right foot and sending in a cross for her Malawian team-mate. Chawinga won the header, but her effort crashed out off the top of the cross-bar. Moments later, the Parisians were punished when Tiny Hoekstra struck a seemingly innocuous - but, fatally, deflected - shot from distance to open the scoring for Ajax (1-0, 34'). Just before the break, the home side even doubled their lead, from the penalty spot via captain Sherida Spitse (2-0, 45'+1), who rounded off an impressive first half for the Dutch side.
Jocelyn Prêcheur's side attacked the second half on the front foot, with Sandy Baltimore once again beating a defender in the penalty area before seeing her shot blocked by the Amsterdam 'keeper. With the Dutch defence in hermetic form, Paris looked to diversify their play by taking chances from outside the box - notably through Korbin Albert, who saw two efforts go wide. But as the game wore on, the Parisians put more and more pressure on the Ajax defence, who were forced onto the back foot to contain the capital club's onslaught.
Just as we were about to enter the final quarter-hour, Korbin Albert thought she had reduced the deficit, but her powerful right-footed shot was twice cleared off the line by goalkeeper Regina Van Eijk. The set-pieces kept coming for the Parisians, and new signing Amalie Vangsgaard's angled header came close to breaking down the Ajax defence. However, despite having laid siege to their opponents' goal in the final stages, Paris were unable to pierce the blockade and find the back of the net. Powerless, Paris Saint-Germain lost 2-0 to Ajax Amsterdam at the Johan Cruijff Arena.
The Parisians must now turn their attentions to the league, and to bouncing back when FC Fleury come calling on Sunday 19 November for their Arkema D1 Round 8 fixture. Les Rouge et Bleu then return to the UEFA Women's Champions League action on Thursday 23 November, when they host FC Bayern Munich in a crucial Matchday 2 clash at the Stade Jean Bouin.