Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag acknowledged he left Benfica with “mixed feelings” after his side twice let leads slip in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.
Dusan Tadic opened the scoring at the Estadio da Luz to join Kylian Mbappe and Riyad Mahrez as the only players with 10-plus goals and assists in the competition since the start of the 2018-19 season.
A topsy-turvy four minutes then followed for Sebastian Haller, who became the first player to score a goal and an own goal in a Champions League knockout match since Dries Mertens in March 2017.
His second finish, at the right end, carried on his fine scoring form. He became just the fifth player to score in seven straight games in the Champions League, and first to find the net 11 times in his opening seven appearances.
However, a late Roman Yaremchuk header after an unconvincing Remko Pasveer save ensured the tie was left hanging in the balance at 2-2 heading into the return leg, much to Ten Hag’s frustration.
He told Dutch outlet Ziggo Sport after the game: “I am here with mixed feelings because we gave away the goals too easily, while we created five clear-cut chances ourselves.
“If one of those goes in, it would be 3-1 and we would have won. You are really not going to get ten finishing chances at European level. We should have handled the opportunities better.”
5 – Sebastien Haller has become the fifth player to score in 7+ games in a row in Champions League history, and the first one to score at least 11 goals in his debut season in the competition. Rocket. #BENAJA pic.twitter.com/7PWaglXRDG
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 23, 2022
Ten Hag also expressed his annoyance at the defending for the second equaliser that allowed Goncalo Ramos to counter and unleash a vicious strike that Pasveer parried, with Yaremchuk heading in the follow-up.
“If you are leading 2-1, you cannot let yourself be countered,” he continued. “At least one more defender should have stayed back.”
Captain Dusan Tadic, who has been involved in 28 goals (10 goals, 18 assists) in just 31 appearances this season, also echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“We had the chances to win. That didn’t happen and that’s why I’m a bit disappointed,” Tadic told Dutch television channel RTL 7.
“We have to rectify this at home. I think we should have done more, especially when we were leading 2-1. Unfortunately, that did not work.”
Ajax will look to make amends for squandering the advantage when they host Benfica on March 15.
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