Ajax held to another draw


Ajax's stuttering start to their Champions League campaign continued with a frustrating 1-1 draw at APOEL. The Dutch champions forced a tie by the same scoreline against Paris St Germain in their opening match but knew they should have made their home dominance count at the Amsterdam ArenA. Young winger Lucas Andersen made the breakthrough just before the half-hour mark in Nicosia, yet Frank de Boer's men were soon pegged back by a Gustavo Manduca penalty and could not force the issue after the break. Two points from two games mean Ajax can still mount a challenge to progress at the expense of PSG or Barcelona, while APOEL are at a disadvantage having lost their opening match to the Catalan giants. Fresh from scoring a league hat-trick at NAC Breda, Ajax's Icelandic striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson fancied making an early impact in Cyprus and went close with a shot from near the penalty spot after only two minutes. APOEL responded well and Cillian Sheridan was unlucky when he missed the target with a header from six yards. The game settled into a steady rhythm for a while, at least until Davy Klaassen got Urko Rafael Pardo working with a right-footed drive from distance that the Spanish goalkeeper did well to pluck out of the air. Yet in the 28th minute Ajax took the lead as Andersen followed his countryman Lasse Schone into the box before turning home his parried strike. It was a first European goal for the 20-year-old Dane, who is still yet to score in the Eredivisie. The celebrations were short-lived, however, as three minutes later APOEL were gifted an opportunity to level. Right-back Ricardo van Rhijn was the guilty party, handling in the area to concede a penalty, and Manduca did not need to be asked twice to drive the ball off the spot with his left boot and past the diving Jasper Cillessen. After the restart Schone was next to threaten the scoreline with a snapshot from close range that Pardo did well to smother. Mario Sergio's free-kick smashed into the Ajax wall after Cillessen was booked for fouling Sheridan and, in the 70th minute, the Portuguese defender warmed the Dutch keeper's palms with another accurate sighter. APOEL continued to enjoy the better chances in the last 20 minutes and midfielder Vinicius was only denied a shot on target by the brave blocking of Joel Veltman. Faced with the prospect of another costly draw, Ajax surged forward and went close to finding the winner through Van Rhijn, whose free-kick unsettled Pardo, and Klaassen. The 21-year-old schemer ghosted into the box to put his head to a cross but could only head over the crossbar. Then, in stoppage time, APOEL came within inches of firing an historic winner. As the ball bobbled around the box following Mario Sergio's corner, Efstathios Aloneftis' put his foot through the ball, which veered above the bar to ensure the points were shared in Nicosia.