Ajax hold Nice to away draw in Champions League qualifier

Fans show their support for Appie Nouri during the game. Photo: VI via HH

Amsterdam football club Ajax held number three in the French league Nice to a 1-1 away draw in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier on Wednesday night.

Mario Balotelli’s opener was cancelled out by a volley from Ajax’s Donny van de Beek, which the midfielder devoted to his friend Abdelhak Nouri. Nouri sustained serious, irreversible brain damage after collapsing with heart problems during an Ajax friendly match in Austria earlier this month.

After scoring, the 20-year-old made the sign 34 to the crowd, the club number worn by Nouri. ‘It was an important goal, we needed it,’ he told Ziggo Sport after the match. ‘It was for Ajax and everyone but most of all for Appie and his family. As a team, we really want to support them.’

The return leg takes place in Amsterdam next week. The winner will gain a place in the group round of the Champions League.

Meanwhile, PSV Eindhoven are in Europa League qualifier action on Thursday night in the first leg of their two-way against Osijek of Croatia. Utrecht, on the same mission, meets Lech PoznaƄ of Poland. Both matches take place at home.

Police arrested some 34 Utrecht fans on Wednesday evening following disturbances. It is not clear what led to the trouble, news agency ANP said.

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