Ajax held away to PAOK in Champions League qualifying
Paris (AFP) – Last season’s Champions League semi-finalists Ajax recovered to earn a 2-2 draw on their trip to PAOK Thessaloniki in Tuesday’s first leg of the third qualifying round.
Dutch champions Ajax came within seconds of reaching the final last term but again must come through a series of qualifiers despite landing a 34th national title in May.
Hakim Ziyech put Ajax ahead on 10 minutes in Greece when his devilish free-kick grazed the head of a defender and flashed beyond PAOK goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis.
Former Arsenal youngster Chuba Akpom levelled for PAOK, who went unbeaten last season on their way to winning the Greek title for the first time in more than three decades.
Defender Leo Matos powered home a header to give PAOK the lead before half-time against an Ajax team that is rebuilding after losing Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus and Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona this summer.
Veteran striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar grabbed a fortuitous equaliser on 57 minutes when an attempted clearance smacked into his shin and rolled into the net.
The two sides will meet in Amsterdam for the return leg next week, with the winner facing Azerbaijan’s Qarabag or APOEL of Cyprus in a playoff for the group stage.