Brighton took control of their Europa League destiny with a commanding 2-0 win against Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena to complete back-to-back victories over the Dutch giants.
A goal in each half from Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra meant Roberto De Zerbi’s side moved into the qualification spots in Group B for the first time on their debut European campaign, with a performance that matched the ease with which they dispatched the four-time European champions at home two weeks earlier.
Since then, Ajax had appointed a new manager in John van’t Schip, but despite an uptick in domestic form it never looked like they had the firepower to unduly trouble Brighton, who could have won by a greater margin had Joao Pedro, Adingra and Fati not wasted good chances.
FT: Albion seal their first ever victory away from home in Europe! 🌍
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) November 9, 2023
Despite their struggles this season, Ajax made the brighter start. After 13 minutes, Kristian Hlynsson found himself with space to drift into with the ball and shot from 25 yards, though it was a comfortable save from Bart Verbruggen.
The opening goal for Brighton was against the run of play, and came from an Ajax error. Silvano Vos was under little pressure in midfield but carelessly gave the ball to Adingra, who moved it calmly into the path of Fati to roll it beyond Diant Ramaj in the home side’s goal.
De Zerbi’s side kept their hosts largely at arm’s length for the remainder of the first period, coming to life in added time before the break when Fati looked to return Adingra’s favour in assisting his goal.
The pair linked up well down the right of Ajax’s box, but after a clever pass by the goalscorer Adingra’s shot to Ramaj’s near post was deflected behind off the legs of the goalkeeper.
Ajax had won twice in the Eredivisie since being beaten at the Amex Stadium two weeks previously, dragging themselves off the bottom of the league and into midtable.
Yet despite reaching half-time here having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, they had rarely troubled Verbruggen as they sought a result to finally kick start their European campaign.
Pedro, the competition’s joint-top scorer at the start of play, danced through Ajax’s defence early in the second half a lashed an effort into the side netting. The Brazilian received a first senior national team call-up on Monday and was inches from marking it with a fifth Europa League goal of the campaign.
Instead it was Adingra who would double Brighton’s lead minutes later, timing his run perfectly to get on the end of Fati’s pass and unleashing an unstoppable, rising drive into Ramaj’s top corner.
Fati had the chance to get his second and Brighton’s third when Ramaj presented the ball to Karou Mitoma, Ajax saved from further embarrassment only by a poor touch from Fati as the pass was played in to him.
They came within inches of a lifeline 15 minutes from time. Brian Brobbey struck first time with his left foot as the ball arrived into the box, and his shot beat Verbruggen before hitting the post, rolling along the goal-line and striking the opposite upright.
It was to be as close as Ajax would come, as Brighton earned a first away win in Europe to cement their position in the group ahead of their final two games.