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2020-21 UEFA Champions League, Group Stage
  • Ryan Gravenberch (79')
  • Luis Muriel (85')

Atalanta join Liverpool in Champions League round of 16 after victory vs. Ajax

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Nicol expected more from Ajax as they crash out of UCL (1:15)

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol breaks down an Atalanta-Ajax match that saw the Italian side qualify for the next round. (1:15)

Atalanta beat Ajax 1-0 at the Johan Cruyff Arena to claim second place in Group D and progress to the Champions League round of 16 thanks to a second-half strike from Luis Muriel.

The Italian side entered the game with the knowledge that anything other than a loss would see them qualify for the round of 16, while Ajax needed all three points to avoid finishing third and dropping to the Europa league.

Neither side could break the deadlock in the first half. Ajax striker Brian Brobbey came close on the stroke of half-time but could not guide his header past Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.

Ajax forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had a penalty appeal turned down in the 68th minute after a clumsy challenge inside the box from defender Cristian Romero, but both the referee and VAR agreed it was not a penalty.

Dutch international Davy Klaassen found himself free in the penalty area in the 70th minute, but saw his shot saved via the feet of Gollini.

The Eredivise league leaders' task was only made harder after midfielder Ryan Gravenberch received a second yellow card in the 78th minute after his hand connected with the face of Alejandro Gomez.

In the 85th minute Colombia international Muriel ended the stalemate after rounding goalkeeper Andre Onana to net late on for the visitors.

"I should have scored," Klaassen said of his missed chance. "But it was a difficult game, they didn't come to score but defended well, they were very compact and we created too few chances."

The Italian side finished the group on 11 points, four more than Ajax, who will go into the Europa League. Liverpool topped the group and Denmark's Midtjylland finished bottom.

Atalanta have qualified for the knockout stage for the second consecutive season.