Ajax turn on dazzling display

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The Independent Online
Ajax 5

Bayern Munich 2

(Ajax win 5-2 on aggregate)

Ajax progressed to a European Cup final with the holders, Milan, in spectacular fashion last night. After a goalless opening encounter, the Dutch champions swept past Bayern Munich in the second leg of the semi- final with a display that recalled the pomp of their 1970s prime.

Ajax, three-times winners of the competition in the Total Footballing side of Johan Cruyff et al, will relish the prospect of meeting Milan in Vienna. The Amsterdam club beat them twice in the Champions' League qualifying stage.

Bayern saw their hopes of a place in the final evaporate in the first half, conceding three goals and only managing one in reply. Jari Litmanen set the Ajax flood underway in the 11th minute with a headed goal after receiving the ball from Ronald de Boer.

In the 36th minute, Bayern responded in kind through Marcel Witeczek after a pinpoint cross from the right by Mehmet Scholl. But the match swung Ajax's way when the Nigerian, Finidi George, struck powerfully from 20 yards to give Ajax the lead in the 41st minute. Marc Overmars passed from the left and Litmanen allowed the ball to roll through his legs to allow George to rifle the ball into the net.

The flood of goals then became an inexorable tide as Ajax sealed victory with two goals either side of half-time. In the 45th minute, Ronald de Boer struck home a close-range volley from a corner flicked on to him by Nwanko Kanu to make it 3-1.

One minute into the second half Litmanen scored his second of the match and his sixth in the competition with a curling shot beyond the reach of the Bayern goalkeeper, Sven Scheuer.

Scholl converted a penalty after the Ajax captain, Danny Blind, was ruled to have handled the ball on the goalline in the 76th minute, but his profligacy cost Bayern dearly five minutes later when he had a free run on goal only to be denied by Edwin van der Sar charging off his line. Overmars' 88th- minute goal sealed the victory for Ajax.

Ajax: Van der Sar; Reiziger, Blind, Rijkaard, Bogarde, R de Boer, George, Seedorf, Kanu, Litmanen, Overmars.

Bayern Munich: Scheuer; Babbel, Ziege, Kuffour, Helmer, Nerlinger, Frey, Schupp, Zickler, Scholl, Witeczek.

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