Chelsea loan star Bertrand Traore scores double as Ajax beat Lyon in first leg
Europa League semi-final, first leg, Amsterdam ArenA - Ajax 4 (Traore 25, 71, Dolberg 34, Younes 49) Olympique Lyonnais 1 (Valbuena 66).
The home side produced a performance of energy, agility and invention to overwhelm their French visitors, who still caused them enough problems such that the second leg is not quite a formality.
Strangely, Ajax looked overawed through the opening passage, but then on 25 minutes, the superb Hakim Ziyech whipped in a perfect free-kick, and Traore flicked a header into the far corner.
Nine minutes later Ajax had another, Traore winning a header after a botched goalkick to send Kasper Dolberg through. He composed himself and beat Anthony Lopes with an expert's finish.
Ajax's running in and through midfield was just too much for Lyon, whose defending was almost unbearably miserable. And sure enough, Peter Bosz's men scored again just after half-time, Amin Younes, who should've had several more, beating Lopes with the aid of a deflection.
To Lyon's credit, Mathieu Valbuena's excellent finish dragged them back into the tie on 66 minutes, but just five minutes later, Traore finished yet another fine move to put the lead back at three, where it stayed - just.
Of course, the likelihood is that Ajax will reach the final, but they will still be wary of what might happen in France. Alexandre Lacazette will be fit enough to start, and Andre Onana, their goalkeeper, had a very good night because he needed to. Or, put another way, this was a terrific game of football; do not, under any circumstances, miss the return.
What do Lyon do in training? Some defenders are better than others, and there are many great ones anywhere in world football. But that is no excuse for the lack of composure and organisation that Lyon displayed tonight, not for the first time. The players have plenty to answer for, but likewise, so does the coach.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Bertrand Traore (Ajax) Though he had several rivals, most particularly Hakim Zoyech and Andre Onana, Traore was a constant threat and scored the crucial first goal, then added the fourth when another for Lyon would've somehow left them in a strong position in the tie.
Ajax: Onana 8, Tete 7, De Ligt 6, Sanchez 7, Riedewald 6, Ziyech 8, Schone 5, Klaassen 7, Traore 9, Dolberg 7, Younes 7. Subs: Van der Beek 6, Kluivert 6, Neres 6.
9 - Lovely from Lyon, Jallet and Torsart turning Ajax's left flank with a one two; Torsart hits the line, cuts back, and Onana does very well to block Cornet's shot behind with an outstretched foot. They're hitting their stride.
Ajax forward Bertrand Traoré (L) vies with Lyon's French defender Jeremy MorelGetty Images
71’ - GOAL! Ajax 4-1 Lyon (Traore) What a lovely goal this is! Ajax knock it about around the edge of the Lyon box, Dolberg keeping the move going with a lovely flick into Klaassen. He spreads the ball left for the excellent Ziyech, whose cross is low and hard; Traore gambles, reaches the ball first, and pokes hard and high past Lopes.
Ajax forward Kasper Dolberg celebrates after scoring a goal during UEFA Europa League semi-final, first leg, Ajax Amsterdam v Olympique LyonnaisGetty Images
Ajax hit 16 shots on target, the most ever recorded in a Europa League game.
Lyon are the first French club to lose a UEFA Cup/Europa League semi-final by three goals.