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Fati and Adingra take down Ajax as Brighton seize Europa League initiative

Brighton took control of their Europa League destiny with a commanding 2-0 win against Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena to complete back-to-back victories over the Dutch giants.

A goal in each half from Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra took Roberto De Zerbi’s side into the qualification spots in Group B for the first time on their debut European campaign, with a performance that matched the ease with which they dispatched the four-time European champions at home two weeks earlier.

Since then, Ajax appointed a new manager in John van ’t Schip, but despite an uptick in domestic form it never looked like they had the firepower to trouble Brighton, who could have won by a greater margin had João Pedro, Adingra and Fati not wasted good chances.

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Despite their struggles this season, Ajax made the brighter start. After 13 minutes, Kristian Hlynsson found himself with space to drift into and shot from 25 yards, though it was a comfortable save from Bart Verbruggen.

The opening goal for Brighton was against the run of play, and came from an Ajax error. Silvano Vos was under little pressure in midfield but carelessly gave the ball to Adingra, who moved it calmly into the path of Fati to roll his finish beyond Diant Ramaj in the home side’s goal.

De Zerbi’s side kept their hosts largely at arm’s length for the remainder of the first period, coming to life in added time before the break when Fati looked to return Adingra’s favour in assisting his goal.

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The pair linked up well down the right of Ajax’s box, but after a clever pass by the goalscorer Adingra’s shot to Ramaj’s near post was deflected behind off the legs of the goalkeeper.

João Pedro makes his way through Ajax’s defenceBrighton’s João Pedro, the Europa League’s joint-top scorer at the start of the match, makes his way through Ajax’s defence. Photograph: Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Ajax had won twice in the Eredivisie since being beaten at the Amex Stadium two weeks previously, dragging themselves off the bottom of the league and into midtable.

Yet despite reaching half-time here having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, theyAjax had rarely troubled Verbruggen as they sought a result to finally kickstart their European campaign.

Pedro, the competition’s joint-top scorer at the start of play, danced through Ajax’s defence early in the second half and lashed an effort into the side netting. The Brazilian received a first senior national team call-up on Monday and was inches from marking it with a fifth Europa League goal of the campaign.

Instead it was Adingra who would double Brighton’s lead minutes later, timing his run perfectly to get on the end of Fati’s pass and unleashing an unstoppable, rising drive into Ramaj’s top corner.

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Fati had the chance to get his second and Brighton’s third when Ramaj presented the ball to Karou Mitoma, Ajax saved from further embarrassment only by a poor touch from Fati as the pass was played in to him.

They came within inches of a lifeline 15 minutes from time. Brian Brobbey struck first time with his left foot as the ball arrived into the box, and his shot beat Verbruggen before hitting the post, rolling along the goalline and striking the opposite upright.

It was to be as close as Ajax would come, as Brighton earned a first away win in Europe to cement their position in the group ahead of their final two games.

The Brighton manager, Roberto De Zerbi, said: “I’m really delighted for the result, the performance, for our fans. They were incredible and we are very happy because we made them happy.” However, he admitted European football was taking a toll on his squad after Lewis Dunk, James Milner and Pervis Estupiñán were all forced off with injury concerns.

“We have a lot of injuries, especially in the full-back position. For that we have to find another solution. We play Sunday another crucial game [against Sheffield United] for us and we want to win,” he said.