Schalke 04 (3) 3-2 (4) Ajax AET: Viergeber and Younes break Royal Blues' hearts

Ajax defied an epic Schalke 04 comeback to progress to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League, their first European last-four appearance in 20 years.

In the space of around two second-half minutes Schalke had brought the tie level through Leon Goretzka and Guido Burgstaller, however, they couldn’t find a winner in normal time despite Jöel Veltman being sent off for the Dutch side.

They thought they were on course to win the tie when Daniel Caligiuri put them ahead in the first half of extra time, but a fortuitous away goal from Nick Viergever settled things in favour of Ajax with Amin Younes making sure of it in the final minute.

Fährmann gives Schalke second leg hope

Two goals from Davy Klaassen gave Ajax a 2-0 advantage from the first leg a week ago, and if it hadn’t have been for Ralf Fährmann in the Schalke goal, it could have been a lot worse for the German side coming into their home leg.

Schalke didn’t have the best preparation for this match, losing 2-1 to relegation candidates SV Darmstadt 98 on Sunday. They made three changes to their team from the first leg – Sascha Riether, Sead Kolasinac and Benjamin Stambouli replaced Thilo Kehrer, Dennis Aogo and Alessandro Schöpf.

Ajax, who breezed past SC Heerenveen 5-1 on Sunday, made two changes to their starting eleven from the first leg. Matthijs de Lige and Lasse Schöne came in for Daley Sinkgraven and Donny van de Beek.

Schalke start brightly but fade away

Schalke needed to show a lot more if they were to have any chance of turning the tie around, and they certainly started on the right foot. Goretzka put a volley wide, before Max Meyer struck the post after getting his shot around Veltman. This was all inside the first two minutes.

They couldn’t keep it up though. Goretzka missed out with a couple of opportunities, whilst his cross to Meyer was an awkward one, with Meyer putting it over.

After that shaky start, Ajax grew more into the game as the half progressed. Viergever had an overhead kick saved by Fährmann, before Bertrand Traoré scored but had the goal chipped off for offside.

By the end of the half, both sides were cancelling each other out. Viergever and Veltman prevented chances for Burgstaller and Goretzka respectively, with Riether blocking an opportunity for Younes. Nabil Bentaleb and Hakim Ziyech then struck off target just before the break.

Goretzka and Burgstaller send the game to extra time

Ajax were given an early chance to get the vital away goal. Schöne got a free-kick over the wall, but as so often in the first leg Fährmann was in the way. He would also make an excellent save from a Ziyech shot, but by then, Schalke had scored two quick goals.

The first came from a succession of wasted Ajax corners. Goretzka launched the counter attack, exchanged passes with Burgstaller, before slotting the ball past André Onana.

A concession of possession from Schöne led to the second three minutes later. Schalke quickly worked their way forward, with Kolasinac crossing into the box. Benedikt Höwedes pulled a dummy, with Burgstaller meeting the ball. He brought the tie level.

Schalke couldn’t build on the momentum though, coming closest against when Höwedes headed wide a Meyer free-kick. They couldn’t even make much of a difference after Veltman was sent off. Having fouled Meyer ten minutes earlier, his deliberate block of Bentaleb earned him his second yellow card.

They had ten minutes to win it before extra time, but the best chances only came in stoppage time. Caligiuri headed wide a Johannes Geis free-kick, before Höwedes slid in to meet a cross. It was a super opportunity but it was saved by Onana. That meant the game was forced into extra time.

Ten men stun Schalke in extra time

Extra time started slowly, with the first real attempt coming from Geis. He hit his strike sweetly but it went just over the bar onto the roof of the net.

Kolasinac and Caligiuri would soon combine though to take penalties out of the occasion and give Schalke the lead for the first time in the tie. It was a superb ball square from the Bosnian full-back to find Caligiuri, who got enough of his head on the ball to put it past Onana.

They had Fährmann to thank again he saved from Viergeber, after an excellent ball from Davinson Sánchez. That led to a throw-in. It was played into the box by Ziyech, Viergever couldn't control with his first touch, but it deflected off Matija Nastasic, then again off Viergever, and Ajax had their away goal.

That broke Schalke, even with a man advantage. Fährmann saved a shot from Ziyech, but in the final minute of the extra 30 minutes, Younes made certain of Ajax’s passage to the semis, finishing off an excellent move with the low shot past Fährmann. They will face one of Manchester United, Celta de Vigo or Olympique Lyonnais in the semi-finals.

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