S04 miss out on semi finals after Ajax late surge

So close, and yet so far. After 120 minutes of play in the second leg, it was Ajax who took their place in the semi finals of the Europa League. After the 2-0 first leg defeat, the Royal Blues managed to level up the tie in 90 minutes thanks to goals from Leon Goretzka and Guido Burgstaller. Daniel Caligiuri added a third in extra time, but Ajax struck twice afterwards to seal the tie. 

Tactics and Personnel

Markus Weinzierl made three changes to the team that started the first leg. Thilo Kehrer was unavailable due to suspension, and Alessandro Schöpf and Dennis Aogo were moved to the bench. In their places came Sascha Riether, Benjamin Stambouli and, back from injury, Sead Kolasinac. The team was set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. 

Meyer hits the post

S04 were on the front foot from the game's opening seconds. Within the first two minutes, Leon Goretzka hit a volley just wide and Max Meyer hit the post from inside the area. Ajax looked a little thrown in the early stages but gathered themselves together quickly, turning the game into an even contest over the rest of the first half, but creating little in the way of clear chances. At the halfway point it was a balanced game, though one which could swing either way at a moment's notice.

Two goals in quick succession to level the tie

Schalke got themselves on the scoresheet shortly after the break, when Goretzka struck a low effort from the right wing beneath the Ajax goalkeeper after an impressive run. With the momentum on their side, S04 flew forward again and capitalised once more, with Guido Burgstaller sliding in a left footed finish folowing brilliant work down the left wing by Kolasinac, putting Schalke 2-0 ahead on the night and level on aggregate. 

The 'equaliser' reawakened Ajax somewhat, as they grew back into the game. Schalke maintained the pressure but were even more wary of the Ajax counterattacking threat, and both sides were unable to convert. The tie seemed to be swinging truly in Schalke's favour in the 80th minute, when Joel Veltman received his second yellow card and Ajax were reduced to ten men. However, with the overall score still level, there was extra time to be played.

Viergever and Younes end the Schalke dream

With the numerical advantage, Schalke pushed more and more in the extra time period. It paid off at last in the 100th minute of play. Daniel Caligiuri nodded home Kolasinac's cross at the back post to put Schalke in the lead on aggregate for the first time in the tie. Everything seemed to be set, but with ten minutes remaining, a strange goal from Nick Viergever stopped Schalke in their tracks, and while the Royal Blues were forced to try and find yet another goal on the night, Amin Younes sunk the killer blow in the final minute, making it 3-2 over the 120 minutes and 4-3 to Ajax on aggregate.

Conclusions and Outlook

It was a gripping match, and Schalke gave absolutely everything they had. It was an unrecognisable performance from the one in the first leg, but the luck ended up going Ajax's way.

The Royal Blues return to Bundesliga action now, meeting RB Leipzig at the VELTINS-Arena on Sunday (17:30 CEST).