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Ghosts Of Premier League Past Play Key Roles In Benfica v Ajax

Ghosts Of Premier League Past Play Key Roles In Benfica v Ajax
By Jonathan Byrne Updated

It might not have been the most highly anticipated Champions League Round of 16 matches but Benfica v Ajax delivered on all fronts.

A closely contested game ensued between two well-matched teams, with Ajax ultimately taking a 2-2 draw back to Amsterdam thanks to goals from Sebastian Haller and Dusan Tadic.

Republic of Ireland fans will be well aware of the threat of once Southampton man Tadic, having acted as the talisman for Serbia in the World Cup qualifiers last year.

Benfica's first-half goal came from former Tottenham man Jan Vertonghen, now 34, who played a dangerous ball across the box only for Haller to deflect it into his own net.

It meant the Frenchman, who's the Champions League's top goalscorer with eleven goals, ended up scoring at both ends of the pitch. He probably should have had two in the first half.

Benfica v Ajax: Clash of the underdogs delivers in Lisbon

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Haller was presented with a deflection from an Edson Alvarez shot with minutes to go until half-time, but his rebounded effort was sent the wrong way past the post.

Thirteen months ago the 27-year-old was suiting up for West Ham and many believed he wasn't enough of a goal threat for them. What a difference a year makes.

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A few might have been surprised to see Queens Park Rangers cult hero Adel Taarabt line up in the middle of the park for Benfica but he's enjoying a new lease of life.

Taarabt has played in six Champions League games this season and has featured 31 times in all competitions for Benfica at the age of 32.

He controlled the ball well in the middle of the park during his stint. Another former Premier League standout in Nicolas Otamendi was positioned behind him in the centre of defence.

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The former Manchester City man played high at times, coming into midfield and helping out. His partnership with Vertonghen has brought plenty of experience to the Benfica backline.

You also had the small feat of Daley Blind becoming Ajax's record appearance holder in the Champions League. He surpasses Jari Litmanen featuring in 43 European games.

Blind moved back to his hometown club in 2018 battled heart issues but has become a regular fixture for the Dutch champions and morphed into a natural left-back.

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The Ajax defence couldn't do much about Roman Yaremchuk's second-half goal which saw the game end level, as he overwhelmed keeper Remko Pasveer to head in a rebound.

We'll be looking forward to the second leg after that display. It's always interesting to see former Premier League players in Europe and watch how their careers pan out.

See Also: Report: UEFA Ready To Move Champions League Final From Russia

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