Brighton enjoyed a comprehensive first victory in Europe as a goal in either half from Joao Pedro and Ansu Fati eased them to a 2-0 win against Ajax at the Amex Stadium.

It took until the final minutes of a first half that Brighton had dominated for the breakthrough to arrive, Pedro tapping home on the rebound, as Ajax – second-bottom of the Eredivisie – did little more than look to preserve parity in the Europa League clash.

The Dutch side have endured their worst start to a league season and, after sacking manager Maurice Steijn on Monday, they went down with barely a whimper as Fati’s goal early in the second half showed the gulf between Roberto De Zerbi’s team and the four-time European champions.

It was a first half that Brighton controlled but were for the most part frustrated by an organised, obdurate Ajax. Pedro wanted a penalty for a shove in the back inside of three minutes, waved away by the referee with barely a glance, before Brighton’s top scorer on their European campaign tucked the only real chance of the opening exchanges wide of the near post from Karou Mitoma’s cut-back.

Pedro appealed again for a spot-kick, this time with more gusto, when he appeared to be bundled to the ground by Jorrel Hato. The defender was adjudged narrowly to have reached Mitoma’s through-ball ahead of the Brighton striker as the Amex howled for a penalty.

The hosts’ central-defensive pair spent much of the first half 10 yards inside the Ajax half. The plan to lure out the visitors and exploit the resulting space was resisted by caretaker boss Hedwiges Maduro’s team, who seemed content to sacrifice attacking ambition for the sake of clogging the gaps in between their lines.

Simon Adingra had the best chance of the opening half-hour when he lashed a right-footed effort over the bar from Lewis Dunk’s header back across goal, as Brighton’s threat was stymied by Ajax in what was a ponderous first half from De Zerbi’s side.

Mitoma and Pedro’s partnership looked the most likely avenue of success. The pair carved out the clearest opening yet when Pedro dashed into a channel down the right to reach his team-mate’s threaded ball and drove low at goal, only for goalkeeper Diant Ramaj to beat it away with a strong right hand.

The breakthrough came three minutes before the break. Dunk’s pass was weighted into the path of Mitoma who dashed into the box and dragged the ball inside Josip Sutalo to make space to shoot. His effort was pushed out by Ramaj, but only to the feet of the onrushing Pedro who continued his fine European scoring run to end a frustrating half for Brighton on a high.

Fati’s goal, slotted home brilliantly eight minutes after the break, cemented Brighton’s superiority. Adingra began the move from midfield, patiently stewarding the ball until Fati’s run was made, checking inside and feeding the on-loan Barcelona forward who beat his man with a devastating first touch and dispatched deftly beyond Ramaj.

The game had sprung suddenly to life. Fati was inches from making it three and burying Ajax, his driven effort licking inches wide of the post, before Steven Berghuis at the other end struck the upright with Jason Steele beaten,  a rare foray forward from the visitors.

It was to be the closest the 2019 Champions League semi-finalists came, as Brighton’s debut European season finally got going in earnest.

Brighton enjoyed a comprehensive first victory in the Europa League as a goal in either half from Joao Pedro and Ansu Fati eased them to a 2-0 win against Ajax at the Amex Stadium.

It took until the final minutes of a first half that Brighton had dominated for the breakthrough to arrive, Pedro tapping home on the rebound after an opening period in which Ajax – second bottom of the Eredivisie – did little more than look to preserve parity, as Brighton dictated things from the first minute.

The Dutch side have endured their worst-ever start to a league season, and after sacking manager Maurice Steijn on Monday they went down with barely a whimper, Fati’s goal early in the second half laying bare the gulf between Roberto De Zerbi’s team and the four-time European champions.

It was a first half that Brighton controlled but were for the most part frustrated by an organised, obdurate Ajax. Pedro wanted a penalty for a shove in the back inside of three minutes, waved away by the referee with barely a glance, before Brighton’s top scorer on their European campaign tucked the only real chance of the opening exchanges wide of the near post from Karou Mitoma’s cut-back.

Pedro appealed again for a spot-kick, this time with more gusto, when he appeared to be bundled to the ground by Jorrel Hato. The defender was adjudged narrowly to have reached Mitoma’s through-ball ahead of the Brighton striker as the Amex howled for a penalty.

The hosts’ central-defensive pair spent much of the first half 10 yards inside the Ajax half. The plan to lure out the visitors and exploit the resulting space was resisted by caretaker boss Hedwiges Maduro’s team, who seemed content to sacrifice attacking ambition for the sake of clogging the gaps in between their lines.

Simon Adingra had the best chance of the opening half-hour when he lashed a right-footed effort over the bar from Lewis Dunk’s header back across goal, as Brighton’s threat was stymied by Ajax in what was a ponderous first half from De Zerbi’s side.

Mitoma and Pedro’s partnership looked the most likely avenue of success. The pair carved out the clearest opening yet when Pedro dashed into a channel down the right to reach his team-mate’s threaded ball and drove low at goal, only for goalkeeper Diant Ramaj to beat it away with a strong right hand.

The breakthrough came three minutes before the break. Dunk’s pass was weighted into the path of Mitoma who dashed into the box and dragged the ball inside Josip Sutalo to make space to shoot. His effort was pushed out by Ramaj, but only to the feet of the onrushing Pedro who continued his fine European scoring run to end a frustrating half for Brighton on a high.

Fati’s goal, slotted home brilliantly eight minutes after the break, cemented Brighton’s superiority. Adingra began the move from midfield, patiently stewarding the ball until Fati’s run was made, checking inside and feeding the on-loan Barcelona forward who beat his man with a devastating first touch and dispatched deftly beyond Ramaj.

The game had sprung suddenly to life. Fati was inches from making it three and burying Ajax, his driven effort licking inches wide of the post, before Steven Berghuis at the other end struck the upright with Jason Steele beaten, a rare foray forward from the visitors.

It was to be the closest the 2019 Champions League semi-finalists came, as Brighton’s debut European season finally got going in earnest.

Ajax’s Eredivisie clash with rivals Feyenoord at the Johan Cruyff Arena was suspended after home fans threw fireworks on to the pitch.

The match had been halted twice before being officially suspended as Ajax fans hurled flares on to the field in protest as their club trailed 3-0.

After the referee had led the players off for a second time in the 55th minute it was announced shortly after that the fixture was “permanently stopped” as it was considered unsafe for the players to continue.

Ajax said on their official website’s live blog in the 56th minute: “De Klassieker has been permanently stopped after fireworks ended up on the field twice.”

The club announced shortly afterwards on X, formerly known as Twitter: “The match has officially been suspended.”

The Eredivisie posted a short social media statement on X, which read: “De Klassieker is permanently stopped after repeated fireworks on the field.

“More information about how to complete this match will follow later.”

Ajax supporters first hurled flares after Igor Paixao scored Feyenoord’s third goal in the 37th minute. Two earlier strikes from Santiago Gimenez had put the visitors in control.

It has been reported that Ajax fans had fought among themselves and some supporters began vandalising the stadium after the game had been halted.

Ajax have made a poor start to the season, winning only one of their first four league games and currently sit 13th in the table, 10 points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven.

Inter Milan have announced the signing of midfielder Davy Klaassen from Ajax.

The 30-year-old has signed a two-year deal with Simone Inzaghi’s side which will take him to at least the summer of 2025.

Klaassen’s contract at Ajax was due to expire at the end of the season and he has been allowed to join the Italian side for free.

Klaassen has been capped 41 times by the Netherlands, scoring on 10 occasions and will now move to Italy for the first time in his career.

He becomes Inter’s sixth signing of the summer after Marcus Thuram, Francesco Acerbi, Yann Sommer, Benjamin Pavard and Alexis Sanchez all signed for the club earlier in the window.

Klaassen said on Inter’s twitter feed: “I think I’m an all round midfield player who can help the team in attack and defence and I want to win a lot of games and a lot of trophies with Inter.”

Inter Milan have announced the signing of midfielder Davy Klaassen from Ajax.

The 30-year-old has signed a two-year deal with Simone Inzaghi’s side which will take him to at least the summer of 2025.

Klaassen’s contract at Ajax was due to expire at the end of the season and he has been allowed to join the Italian side for free.

Klaassen has been capped 41 times by the Netherlands, scoring on 10 occasions and will now move to Italy for the first time in his career.

He becomes Inter’s sixth signing of the summer after Marcus Thuram, Francesco Acerbi, Yann Sommer, Benjamin Pavard and Alexis Sanchez all signed for the club earlier in the window.

Klaassen said on Inter’s twitter feed: “I think I’m an all round midfield player who can help the team in attack and defence and I want to win a lot of games and a lot of trophies with Inter.”

Europa League debutants Brighton were drawn to take on former Champions League winners Ajax and Marseille in Friday’s group stage draw.

Roberto De Zerbi’s men secured a first season in continental football with a sixth-place finish in last season’s Premier League table, and their reward is matches against four-time European champions Ajax and the 1993 European Cup winners Marseille.

The Seagulls’ other group opponents are reigning Greek champions AEK Athens, with the first round of group stage games to be played on Thursday, September 21.

Ajax have finally filled the void left by Marc Overmars with the appointment of former Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund transfer chief Sven Mislintat.

Overmars was sacked by Ajax in February 2022 after "a series of inappropriate messages sent to several female colleagues over an extended period of time".

The former Netherlands international apologised for his actions but departed the club, accepting a role at Belgian side Antwerp a month later.

In the meantime, Ajax have operated without a specific director of football, Overmars' duties instead handled by technical managers Gerry Hamstra and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Mislintat, who left Stuttgart in late 2022, will step into the void from May 19.

Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar said of the appointment: "It is good for Ajax that we have been able to fill this important position with an internationally experienced football director who can start quickly.

"A careful process preceded the search for the right person. We were looking for someone who stands for attacking and attractive football.

"Someone who has an international network, and has an eye for scouting, development, and the growth of our own youth.

"Sven meets the profile, and he made a very good impression on us from the first talks in February.

"In addition, he has a way of working that fits today's industry. I am convinced that he will make an important contribution to new successes of Ajax."

Mislintat made his name at Borussia Dortmund, where he was head of scouting and head of professional football between 2006 and 2017, playing a vital role in the identification of talents who re-established BVB among the elite.

Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa and Ousmane Dembele all signed for Dortmund on Mislintat's watch.

He became Arsenal's head of recruitment in 2017 but his spell in charge of transfers was largely deemed a disappointment, leaving in February 2019.

Mislintat returned to Germany with Stuttgart two months later, staying until late last year when he opted against signing a new contract as he sought a new challenge.

Wednesday's Dutch Cup semi-final between Feyenoord and Ajax was halted for 30 minutes after Davy Klaassen was struck on the head by an object thrown from the stands.

Ajax midfielder Klaassen was celebrating near the corner flag at De Kuip early in the second half when what appeared to be a lighter caught him on the back of the head.

The Netherlands international was left bleeding and referee Allard Lindhout took the decision to take both sets of players off the field.

After a stoppage of half an hour, during which time Feyenoord assistant John de Wolf urged home fans to "use their common sense", play eventually resumed.

Klaassen attempted to continue but he went down holding his head soon after and was replaced by Brian Brobbey.

But the 30-year-old ultimately had the last laugh as his goal proved to be the winner as Ajax held on to win 2-1 and advance to the final, where PSV await on April 30.

"These are always crazy matches when you play here," Klaassen later told ESPN. "But we didn't expect this. It goes beyond all limits.

"I felt something pretty hard. At first I felt anger inside, and I got even angrier when their goalkeeper [Timon Wellenreuther] ran over and shouted that I had to get up.

"Then another player looked at my head and it turned out I was covered in blood. I wanted to get away from the sidelines.

"I then had a throbbing feeling in my head and had trouble focusing so had to come off."

Klaassen added that he is not sure yet whether he intends to press charges, with local police reporting that a 32-year-man had been arrested in connection with the incident.

Away fans have not attended 'De Klassieker' games since 2009 in an attempt to quell violence in the stands.

Ajax head coach John Heitinga rued more frustrations in a disappointing season after Feyenoord came from behind to strike a significant Eredivisie title blow.

Arne Slot's side moved six points clear at the Dutch top-flight summit after Lutsharel Geertruida scored an 86th-minute winner in a 3-2 victory over second-placed Ajax on Sunday.

It marked the first time since August 2014 that Ajax lost an Eredivisie game they had led at half-time, after Edson Alvarez and Dusan Tadic goals had sent the hosts in leading 2-1 at the interval.

With only the top two qualifying for the Champions League, Heitinga – in charge until the end of the season following Alfred Schreuder's sacking in January  acknowledged Ajax are struggling with AZ and PSV in hot pursuit.

"Let's be clear: this is not the season Ajax wants it to be," said former defender Heitinga, as quoted by De Telegraaf.

"I have been asked to help this club. When I started we were fifth and then we won seven league games in a row. 

"And we probably would have won here too if [Mohammed] Kudus scored in the final phase. But unfortunately, he didn't. We are really going to do everything we can to finish this season as high as possible."

Stats Perform's predictor, which calculates the probability of a team's league finish based on numerous data, suggests Feyenoord have a 92.6 per cent chance of winning the league after a late win over Ajax.

 

Those title hopes were boosted by Geertruida's header, which was Feyenoord's latest winner in De Klassieker since November 1969 when Theo van Duivenbode scored in the 87th minute.

Feyenoord coach Slot said his side can dare to dream of a first championship since 2017 and just a second this century.

"We are in very good shape," he said. "I dare say that we are competing for the championship. And that we are in a fantastic position too.

"We had a great victory here. We know how much effort it takes to win every time. There is nothing wrong with that; we like to do that.

"I saw a physical performance today that also appeals to the imagination. If we can keep delivering and no one gets injured, then we are in really good shape."

Slot's men were somewhat fortunate in the first half, though, as Quilindschy Hartman escaped a second caution in quick succession from referee Danny Makkelie.

The defender was promptly removed in the 25th minute for Marcos Lopez, with the game finely poised at 1-1 after Alvarez cancelled out Santiago Gimenez's early opener.

"He got away with it, the referee could have given yellow again," Slot told ESPN. "Although you also have to analyse that first yellow card. Three violations preceded that. 

"Everyone understands that you don't enjoy playing football anymore if you have committed an offence that could have been your second yellow card. 

"Then you can no longer play against Kudus, a man who is so incredibly good in terms of individual class."

Feyenoord head coach Arne Slot hailed the "unreal" clinical display from his side after thumping Shakhtar Donetsk 7-1 in their Europa League last-16 second leg.

Thursday's contest at De Kuip was far less evenly contested than last week's 1-1 draw, with Santiago Gimenez getting the ball rolling for the hosts inside nine minutes.

Orkun Kokcu scored twice before half-time and Oussama Idrissi likewise after the restart, before Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Danilo completed the rout by the 66th minute.

Kevin Kelsy pulled a goal back late on, but it was of no real consolation to the Ukrainian visitors as they bowed out of the competition.

It marks the second-biggest win for a Dutch side in a major European competition at this stage or beyond, after Ajax's 10-0 win over Omonia Nicosia in the 1979-80 European Cup.

Reflecting on a memorable result for his side, Slot said: "It was unreal how we put the match to bed so quickly.

"Normally we need more chances to score, so compliments to my players for being so efficient this evening.

"Shakhtar had a good spell in the first half, and you saw how our players blocked their shots in the box. They were so determined to get a good result."

Feyenoord are now unbeaten in 16 matches this calendar year, with their thumping victory against Shakhtar coming three days before facing fierce rivals Ajax.

Slot's side are three points better off than Ajax at the summit ahead of Sunday's Eredivisie showdown at the Johan Cruijff ArenA.

"Of course this victory helps for the duel with Ajax," Slot said. "This gives a lot of confidence. 

"But I also see that Ajax have regained the level they had at the start of the season. Ajax have a good team again."

Rafael Leao's name has long been in the rumour file given his contract status with Milan.

The forward is contracted with the Serie A side until July 2024 but has stalled on an extension, with no agreement on a salary increase.

There was speculation in January that a renewal was close but nothing materialised.

 

TOP STORY – MILAN'S LEAO BOOST

Rafael Leao would prefer to stay with Milan rather than move elsewhere, amid interest from a host of top clubs, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have all been linked with the 23-year-old Portugal international.

But it is claimed Milan could renew Leao's deal before the next transfer window, effectively warding off their interest.

 

ROUND-UP

– Erik ten Hag wants to add at least two major signings at Manchester United in the off-season, with Ajax's Mohammed Kudus and Napoli's Victor Osimhen on their list, claims the Manchester Evening News.

Manchester City are weighing up a move for Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic, according to The Telegraph. The Croatian's contract expires in mid-2024. Football Insider reports City are also interested in Chelsea's full-back Ben Chilwell.

Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig both have an interest in signing Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, who is out of contract at the end of this season, claims Bild.

Atletico Madrid have reached an agreement for Leicester City defender Caglar Soyuncu to join as a free agent in the off-season, reports 90min.

– El Nacional claims Dusan Vlahovic has also spoken to Real Madrid about a potential move to Spain from Juventus.

Juventus are also keen on signing out-of-favour Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, according to Fichajes.

Mohammed Kudus was thankful to the referee for understanding his tribute to Christian Atsu was "bigger than the rules of football".

Kudus scored the final goal in Ajax's 4-0 rout of Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday, moving John Heitinga's team into second in the Eredivisie. 

The Ghana international who enjoyed a fine World Cup, curled in a free-kick in the 84th minute and celebrated by removing his shirt to show an undershirt with the message "RIP Atsu".

It was confirmed on Saturday that former Chelsea, Porto, Newcastle United and Everton winger Atsu had died in the earthquakes that shook southern Turkey and northern Syria.

The 31-year-old had been missing since February 6, but his body was eventually recovered from the rubble of his apartment building in the city of Hatay, where he had been playing for Hatayspor.

Kudus scoring from a left-footed free-kick was a fitting tribute in itself to his late compatriot Atsu, who netted with the same kind of effort in his final game, on February 5.

Referee Pol van Boekel spoke with Kudus after his celebration, but did not book the 22-year-old.

Kudus told ESPN: "This is bigger than the rules of football, it's about life and death.

"The referee said it was not allowed, but he understood the situation. I am grateful to him for that and I respect him very much."

Explaining his tribute, Kudus said: "This one was for Christian. Everyone knows what happened in Turkey. I chose this because he is dear to me. 

"It's naturally for all those families that are affected. I learned a lot from watching him, he also regularly gave me advice. Everything I gave today was for him. 

"If I hadn't have scored, I would have shown the shirt after the game."

Over 47,000 people have died as a result of the earthquakes.

Manchester United will reportedly aim to sell Harry Maguire, Anthony Martial and Alex Telles after the season to fund the purchase of a new marquee talent.

The Old Trafford side are said to be investigating a number of targets expected to cost in excess of £100million, including Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, Tottenham talisman Harry Kane and West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.

United are very familiar with Premier League stars and England internationals Kane and Rice, while Osimhen has enjoyed a rise to prominence this season with the Serie A leaders.

With 16 goals in 17 league appearances this campaign, the 24-year-old Nigerian has already set a new personal best goal tally, and he has been one of the driving forces for a Napoli team sitting 13 points clear at the top.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED IDENTIFY LIKELY SALES TO FUND NEW SIGNING

According to the Manchester Evening News, Telles, Maguire and Martial have all been identified as players United would like to cash-in on to at least partially pay for a new £100m signing.

That report states Kane and Osimhen are the primary targets, as well as Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos and Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus.

Meanwhile, Talksport adds that United had a £100m bid for Rice turned down by West Ham before the season, but that he could be pried away at the end of the campaign for £120m plus add-ons.

United are willing to pay £107m (€120m) for Osimhen, and they expect competition from Chelsea, per The Express.

 

ROUND-UP

– AS is reporting United are interested in 29-year-old Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco. Barcelona have the option to purchase the Belgian for €20m, but if they pass, Atletico will listen to offers from the Premier League.

Paris Saint-Germain will rival Barcelona in the pursuit of Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva, per Le10Sport.

– According to The Athletic, Real Madrid believe Jude Bellingham will choose the Premier League if he leaves Borussia Dortmund. 

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are scouting 23-year-old Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa as they look to address the position at the end of the season.

Inter have added 25-year-old Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo to their list of potential replacements for outgoing centre-back Milan Skriniar, per Tuttomercatoweb.

Ajax have promoted John Heitinga to first-team head coach until the end of the season.

The Amsterdam giants sacked Alfred Schreuder a week ago following a run of no wins in seven Eredivisie matches, their joint-worst winless streak in the league's history.

Schreuder had only been in charge since the start of the season, when he was appointed as Erik ten Hag's replacement following his departure to Manchester United.

Ajax's lack of victories saw them drop to fifth in the table, but they bounced back on Sunday with a 4-1 win at Excelsior.

Heitinga – who had been in charge of the Under-23s – was at the helm for the trip to Rotterdam, and will now take the senior side through to the end of the campaign.

The former Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Everton player, who played internationally for the Netherlands, has held various youth coaching positions at the club since retiring as a player in 2016.

His first match as head coach will be away to second-from-bottom Cambuur on Sunday.

Ajax are fourth in the Eredivisie but only trail leaders Feyenoord by five points.

Ajax have sacked head coach Alfred Schreuder after a poor run of results.

Schreuder replaced Erik ten Hag after his move to Manchester United at the end of last season, and initially seemed to be a good fit in Amsterdam, winning his first six league games and thrashing Rangers 4-0 in Ajax's first Champions League game of the season.

However, elimination from the Champions League group stage also led to form dipping drastically in the Eredivisie, having not won a league game since October, although that gap included a break for the 2022 World Cup. 

Following Thursday's 1-1 home draw with strugglers Volendam, the club decided to act after failing to win any of their past seven games in the Eredivisie (D6 L1), leaving them fifth in the table, seven points behind leaders Feyenoord.

It is Ajax's joint-longest winless run in Eredivisie history (also seven in 1962, 1964 and 1965).

A statement from the Dutch giants read: "The many points lost and the team's lack of development are the main reasons for this decision. 

"The club management no longer has confidence in further cooperation."

Ajax confirmed that assistant coach Matthias Kaltenbach had also been dismissed.

The club's chief executive Edwin van der Sar added: "It is a painful decision, but also a necessary one.

"After a good start to the season, we then lost an unnecessary number of points... In recent weeks it became increasingly clear that [Schreuder] could not turn the tide, while we believe that despite the many transfers he had a strong and championship worthy squad at his disposal.

"We have also lost a lot of points in recent weeks and unfortunately we did not see any progress."

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