October 23, 2018 / 9:56 PM / 22 days ago

Soccer - Late Mazraoui strike seals win for Ajax over Benfica

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Noussair Mazraoui scored an injury-time winner as Ajax claimed what could be a vital 1-0 win over Benfica in their Champions League Group E clash at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Tuesday.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group Stage - Group E - Ajax Amsterdam v Benfica - Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands - October 23, 2018 Ajax's Noussair Mazraoui celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters

Fullback Mazraoui’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected into the net as he scored for the second Champions League game in a row to move Ajax level with Bayern Munich at the top of their pool.

They both have seven points, four more than Benfica in third, who will now be targeting victory over Ajax in the return fixture in Lisbon on Nov. 7 to keep alive their hopes of reaching the last-16.

Benfica would have been kicking themselves after spurning several opportunities, particularly in the first half when they were the dominant side.

The visitors almost took an early lead when Rafa Silva forced an excellent stop from home goalkeeper Andre Onana with a low shot arrowed towards the bottom corner.

Silva and Haris Seferovic had further chances to open Benfica’s account but spurned those and it was Ajax who came closest when Nicolas Tagliafico’s shot had the beating of Benfica keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos, but not fellow Argentine German Conti, who acrobatically hooked the ball to safety.

Goal-line technology showed that all but approximately an inch of the ball had crossed the line as the teams went into the break level.

Onana produced another good stop just past the hour mark as the lively Seferovic produced a shot on the turn from the edge of the box.

Donny van de Beek looked certain to give Ajax the lead when a sweeping move ended with the midfielder in acres of space in the box and time to pick his spot, but his shot was a good height for Vlachodimos, who thrust out his right arm to make a fine stop.

The goal finally came two minutes into stoppage time when an error from Conti as he tried to clear the ball saw Ajax storm into the Benfica box, with Mazraoui able to line up his shot from just outside the penalty area.

Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Martyn Herman

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