Valencia eliminate Ajax and progress with Rodrigo winner

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group H - Ajax Amsterdam v Valencia - Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands - December 10, 2019 Valencia's Rodrigo celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Rodrigo scored the game’s only goal as Valencia upset hosts Ajax Amsterdam 1-0 on Tuesday to finish top of Champions League Group H and eliminate the Dutch club from this season’s competition.

The 24th minute strike from the Brazil-born Spanish international saw Valencia finish ahead of Chelsea, 2-1 victors over Lille, by virtue of the head-to-head result between the two, as both clubs ended on 11 points to Ajax’s 10.

The Dutch giants, who were the fairytale story of last season’s competition with their giant-slaying run from the early preliminary rounds to the semi-final, needed only to draw their last group game to advance to the last-16.

Yet they looked flat and listless in going down to the Spanish side, who ended with 10 men after the sending off of Gabriel Paulista in stoppage time, and now drop down to the Europa League after finishing third.

Rodrigo buried the ball into the top right-hand corner after being teed up by a clever dummy from Ferran Torres, who first feinted to shoot before passing.

Ajax began the game looking confident but were sloppy in their execution and failed to make adequate use of their dominance of possession with uncharacteristically slow build-ups.

It was only after 43 minutes that they threatened with Donny van de Beek trying to hook the ball in from a difficult angle but Valencia veteran Jose Gaya cleared off the goal line.

The half ended with Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana making a key save to deny Rodrigo a second after the Valencia striker had easily sold Daley Blind a dummy to set up a chance right in front of goal.

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