AMSTERDAM (AP) — Lasse Schone scored from a 74th-minute free kick to cancel out an early Edinson Cavani strike as Ajax salvaged a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in their opening match in the Champions League.
The star-studded Paris team paid the price for failing to extend its lead despite outclassing Ajax for most of the Group F match on a warm evening at the Amsterdam Arena. In the end, the French club will have been pleased with a point after weathering a torrid late offensive by Frank de Boer’s young team.
Cavani hammered in a rebound in the 14th minute after Joel Veltman blocked a shot by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. PSG then squandered a string of chances before Schone’s free kick beat Salvatore Sirigu.
The Denmark midfielder nearly stole the three points for Ajax a few minutes later with another free kick, but Sirigu got down well to his left to parry the ball onto the post.
“Given the second half, I think we deserved more,” Schone said.
PSG’s stars, including three former Ajax players in Ibrahimovic, Gregory van der Wiel and Maxwell, barely broke a sweat in the first half, but still went into the break 1-0 up without allowing their host a single shot on target.
De Boer’s team looked vulnerable down the left and it was Nicolai Boilesen’s mistake that led to Cavani’s goal.
The Ajax left back slipped in his own penalty area, allowing Lucas to steal the ball and pull it back to Ibrahimovic. The Sweden striker’s shot was blocked on the line by Veltman, but Cavani was on hand to pounce on the rebound.
Lucas should have doubled PSG’s lead in the first minute of the second half when he dispossessed Ajax captain Niklas Moisander but shot wide with only goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen to beat.
De Boer pulled off the ineffective Nick Viergever at halftime and replaced him with Denmark midfielder Niki Zimling, who almost immediately made his presence felt with a long-range shot that sailed just over Sirigu’s goal.
Despite the Ajax pressure, it was PSG who looked the more dangerous, with Ibrahimovic coming close in the 52nd minute with a shot that flashed across the face of the goal and just wide. Ibrahimovic set Lucas free six minutes later with an inch-perfect first time pass, but Cillessen dived to his right to save the shot.
Defender Marquinhos came even closer to extending PSG’s lead in the 67th when his header went just wide from a Lucas free kick.
“We had good chances for the 2-0, but generally it was Ajax that made the running,” Van der Wiel said.
But from then on it was all Ajax, with Schone’s goal after a foul on Thulani Serero ushering in a period of sustained pressure that just failed to deliver a winner.
De Boer said a draw was all his team deserved.
“If you see the first half and how we gave away a 100-percent chance straight after the break, you have to be happy with a draw,” the Ajax coach said.