Football Features

Ajax’s history-making Champions League campaign so far explained in eight stats

By Ben Green

Published: 13:08, 9 December 2021 | Updated: 9:08, 19 December 2022

Ajax are through to the Champions League knockout rounds, topping Group C with a 100% winning record.

Erik ten Hag’s flawless streak in the groups was concluded with a dazzling 4-2 win over Portuguese champions Sporting CP. The result ensured they became the first side in the Champions League this season to notch 20 goals while their exploits also relegated Borussia Dortmund to the Europa League.

The Amsterdammers join just eight other sides in the history of the competition to finish the groups with a perfect record, alongside Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who made mincemeat of Group B and finished their own six-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory over AC Milan, despite resting several key players.

The Dutch side are, of course, royalty in Europe’s flagship competition, having won the European Cup on four separate occasions while most recently reaching the 2018/19 semi-finals (claiming the scalps of Real Madrid and Juventus along the way).

But their latest feat is unprecedented for this club.

So, how did Ten Hag mastermind an achievement that not even legendary Ajacied tacticians Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal or Leo Beenhakker could manage? We’ve compiled the biggest stats below to tell the story of Ajax’ history-making Champions League season so far.

Champions League 2021/22 winner odds with William Hill

  • Man City (3/1)
  • Bayern Munich (4/1)
  • Liverpool (5/1)
  • PSG (6/1)
  • Chelsea (6/1)
  • Ajax (20/1)

18+ only. Be Gamble Aware. Odds in this article are correct at 16:00, 08/12/2021.

1. Living in the Haller of Fame

There persists a collective scratching of heads at the London Stadium as to how Sebastien Haller went from a floundering forward at West Ham to the Second Coming of Marco van Basten in the Dutch capital. That may be a gross exaggeration, but Haller has managed to blaze a goalscoring trail for Ajax this season.

Following his penalty in the 4-2 win over Sporting on Tuesday night, the Ivory Coast international became the first player in Champions League history to score in each of his first six appearances in the competition. In fact, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Haller have managed to net in all six UCL group stage matches during a single campaign.

Haller’s prolific, record-breaking exploits have naturally positioned him near the top of this season’s Golden Boot race, with the 27-year-old so far outscoring the likes of Robert Lewandowski (nine) and Mohamed Salah (seven) to currently lead the charge as the only player, so far, to bag double digits (10).

2. ‘Hallerlujah’

Incredibly, the burgeoning forward is not done there. Haller also managed to break Erling Haaland’s record to become the quickest player to net 10 goals in the Champions League, with the Norwegian sensation achieving that milestone in seven matches. Haller has one-upped the BVB marksman to do it in six.

And finally, Haller is also just the fourth player to score 10+ goals in a single Champions League group stage campaign. He is joined in that exclusive club by the competition’s record goalscorer Ronaldo, a certain Lionel Messi and Lewandowski (naturally). Certainly not bad company.

3. First to 20

With such an emphatic scoring haul from Haller it is no wonder then that Ajax have become the first club in the Champions League this season to net 20 goals. Liverpool’s own flawless campaign saw them finish on 17, while perennial finishers Man City and PSG finished the initial phase on 18 and 13 respectively.

Real Madrid managed 14 while Scudetto-holders Inter bagged just eight. And Ajax weren’t in a bad group. Theirs included the Portuguese champions Sporting, the Turkish champions Besiktas and Borussia Dortmund. In fact, this is Ajax’s most prolific group-sage campaign ever.

4. Spartak Moscow are no longer alone

Not only have Ajax joined Liverpool to become just one of nine teams to register a perfect group-stage record in the Champions League, but they are now only the second club from outside Europe’s top five leagues to achieve this feat, joining Spartak Moscow, who reached that milestone in the 1995/96 season.

The Russian club made light work of Group B, which contained Legia Warsaw, Rosenborg and then English champions Blackburn Rovers. With 15 goals scored and only four conceded, Gladiatory were utterly relentless and cut-throat that season, and their achievement has finally been matched 26 years later.

5. Dusan Tadic in royal company

Haller may have been the reliable goal-getter for Ten Hag in the groups, but he was not alone in getting his name on the scoresheet. Dusan Tadic who, like Haller, transformed his reputation after leaving the Premier League for Ajax, managed to nab against Borussia Dortmund, drawing level with Patrick Kluivert as a result.

At the time of his finish Tadic became Ajax’s joint-second top goalscorer in the Champions League alongside Kluivert (nine apiece), sitting only below the legendary Jari Litmanen on 20. Haller has since surpassed both players, meaning Ajax’s current top three include two players in their current squad.

6. A third fifer

One of Ajax’s most comprehensive results came in a 5-1 mauling over Sporting on matchday one, with Haller famously helping himself to four goals, and summer recruit Steven Berghuis also getting his name on the scoresheet. This was only the third time Ajax have netted 5+ goals in a Champions League game. The other two came in April 1995 (5-2 vs Bayern Munich) and September 1995 (1-5 vs Ferencvaros).

7. The Chelsea treatment

During that game, Ajax actually found themselves 3-0 up within the first 30 minutes. And by netting three times in the first half, the Amsterdammers matched an away Champions League record they set against Chelsea in November 2019. On two occasions now have Ajax scored three goals in the opening 45 minutes of a UCL game on the road. That famous game at Stamford Bridge ended up finishing 4-4.

8. Oldest XI this century

Ajax have garnered a reputation as a youthful, academy-obsessed institution. But on matchday one, Ten Hag’s line-up had an average age of 26 years and 189 days. That is their oldest in a Champions League game since December 1998, when they went with a rather veteran line-up (by their youthful standards) of 27 years and 99 days against Porto. More than just an interesting piece of trivia, this highlights Ajax’s recent strategy shift of recruiting experienced players in their peak years.