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Mathematically eliminated from a top-four finish in the Premier League, Manchester United now know that they need to win the Europa League in order to qualify for next year's Champions League.
Ajax did their level best to bungle away their place in the Europa League final. Lyon did their level best to crawl out of the hole they had dug for themselves. In the end, the distance was too great. The hole was too deep.
Facing a 4-1 aggregate deficit, Lyon girded their loins and went out and let Ajax get the first goal, courtesy of youngster Kasper Dolberg.
Ajax had a plan to make it interesting, though. They let Alexandre Lacazette get two goals in two minutes right before halftime, and the game was on.
Celta de Vigo came agonizingly close to scoring a vital second away goal that would've seen them advance to the Europa League Final. In the sixth minute of extra time, striker John Guidetti mishit a bouncing cross from ten yards out, and United cleared the ball out of the box before hearing a long awaited final whistle. Any shot on goal would've beaten United keeper Sergio Romero, who was out of position defending against the last-minute surge from Celta.
Manchester United extended their lead against Celta Vigo with a all-important goal from Marouane Fellaini. Henrikh Mkhitaryan found Marcus Rashford in space, and he delivered a perfect pass to Fellaini at the far post. A simple header from close range beat keeper Sergio Alvarez, who could only get a hand on the shot. Celta Vigo controlled possession early on, needing at least one away goal to advance. Their task just became much more difficult.
18-year-old Kylian Mbappe and AS Monaco’s youth revolution has garnered the headlines throughout the club’s thrilling run to the Champions League semifinals, but there’s a similar movement taking place in Europe’s less prestigious club competition, the Europa League, at AFC Ajax.
Ajax dismantled Lyon 4-1 in their Europa League semifinal first leg at the Amsterdam ArenA, and, after landing 16 shots on target, they’ll be disappointed that they didn’t add more to their total before the return leg.