Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Ajax: First-half double from Marie-Antoinette Katoto puts PSG on the brink of the knockout stages

Undefeated in their last nine matches across all competitions, and on the winning side in eight of those games, Paris Saint-Germain Féminines made wholesale changes from their 8-1 demolition job of Girondins de Bordeaux at the weekend with Sandy Baltimore, Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Jackie Groenen et al. returning to the Parisians’ starting lineup.

Meanwhile, Ajax remained in prime position to become the first-ever Dutch side to reach the knockout stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, following AS Roma’s 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich Frauen earlier in the evening.

PSG: Kiedrzynek; Le Guilly, Hunt, De Almeida, Karchaoui; Groenen, Samoura, Geyoro; Chawinga, Baltimore, Katoto

AJA: Van Eijk; Kardinaal, Spitse, de Sanders, Weerden; Noordam, van Gool, Yohannes; Grant, Hoekstra, Leuchter

Only ever face-to-face in one historical head-to-head encounter – most recently as November when goals from Tiny Hoekstra and Sherida Spitse earned Ajax the victory, the host needed only six minutes to exact a measure of revenge. Determined build-up play down the left-hand flank from Sandy Baltimore allowed Marie-Antoinette Katoto to deliver an exquisitely-struck overkick head past Regina Van Eijk into the corner of the net.

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The French international was at it again in the 25th minute as a defence-splitting pass from PSG captain Grace Geyoro gave Katoto her second goal of the evening after an expertly-taken one-on-one finish beyond the onrushing Ajax goalkeeper.

However, another in-form striker would get Ajax back into the game shortly after the half-hour mark. A defensive error from Thiniba Samoura allowed Romée Leuchter to drive menacingly towards goal before beating Katarzyna Kiedrzynek at the near post with a well-executed finish for her ninth goal in the 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign – including qualifiers.

Disappointingly for Ajax, the hosts would restore their two-goal lead five minutes before half-time, with Geyoro getting her name onto the scoresheet with a simply close-range sliding finish after Van Eijk had produced a brilliant one-handed save to prevent an own goal from Kay-Lee de Sanders.

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On course to end the evening top of Group C – only one subsequent point away from qualifying for the knockout stages – Gérard Prêcheur’s side began the second half as they did from kick-off with Baltimore firing in a shot on target within the opening few moments.

On the other boot, Ajax had to wait until after the hour mark to register their first shot in anger towards goal – after the loss of injury-struck goalscorer Leuchter at half-time – as Tiny Hoekstra’s effort was smartly pushed around the post by Kiedrzynek.

The Ajax forward’s effort would ultimately prove to be the final opportunity in front of goal for either side throughout a somewhat lacklustre second 45 minutes compared to the first, as the victory puts Paris Saint-Germain Féminine’s destiny of qualifying for the quarter-finals into their own hands ahead of the trip to Germany to face Bayern Munich Frauen on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ajax will need to beat AS Roma back at the familiar setting of the Johan Cruijff ArenA if they wish to join the French side in the knockout stages.