The 2019 Florida Cup opened with a back-and-forth match at Orlando City Stadium, with Flamengo of Brazil’s Serie A fighting back from two one-goal deficits to draw AFC Ajax, 2-2. Flamengo then won a penalty shootout after the draw to grab an extra point in the first day of the tournament.
Diego Ribas, a target of Orlando City — though seemingly now set for a Flamengo return after renewed negotiations with his club — started in the midfield for Flamengo. He played the first half and figured in the scoring on his first visit to Orlando City Stadium.
Ajax began the first half as the sharper of the two teams, but didn’t mount any real threat in the attack. Flamengo seemed content to win the ball in the midfield and try to counter but the Brazilian side looked rusty as ill-timed passes or early runs kept the Rubro-Negro from menacing Ajax goalkeeper Kostas Lamprou.
The scoring began in the middle of the first half, although with no functioning clock visible and no press box announcements, I can’t give you the times. Ajax opened the scoring around the 16-minute mark on a nice give-and-go play. Klaas Jan Huntelaar got a return pass from Vaclav Cerny and slotted it just inside the near post from the left side, beating goalkeeper Diego Alves to make it 1-0.
Flamengo wasted no time getting back into it. Just three minutes after Ajax’s goal, Fernando Uribe made a perfectly timed run to get onto a long ball over the top from Everton Ribeiro. Lamprou came out and Uribe chipped him with a soft shot that bounced once and went in to make it 1-1.
That started a spell where Flamengo began to settle into the game a bit. Ribeiro nicked the ball off an Ajax defender and was in alone but tried his shot from outside the box, firing over the net. Moments later, Vitinho fired a shot from the left side that Lamprou badly misplayed. The ball trickled just wide and Lamprou was able to recover in time to keep Ribeiro from scoring on the follow-up attempt.
About 27 minutes in, Cerny got in on the left side and tried a shot from a tight angle. Alves made the save and Ajax could do nothing with the ensuing corner kick.
The match started to open up at that point and both teams got good scoring opportunities numerous times in the final 13 or so minutes of the half. Ajax regained the lead at 2-1 on a tremendous passing play that built up through at least five solid passes just outside the area. David Neres found Ryan Gravenberch, who touched it over to Zakaria Labyad to fire past Alves around the 31-minute mark. Carel Eiting tried to add another for Ajax two minutes later after a Flamengo turnover in the midfield but he fired wide of goal from the left. Two minutes after that, Rasmus Kristensen sizzled one just wide on the right for Ajax, looking to put the game out of reach.
Ajax continued buzzing. Cerny got to a lovely long ball first and blasted one on frame but Alves fought it off to keep it a 2-1 game. That was a big save and inspired a resurgence by his Flamengo teammates.
Around the 37-minute mark, Vitinho got down the left and smashed a shot on goal that Lamprou saved. Two minutes later, Willian Arão sliced a drive over the bar for the Brazilian side. Just a minute after Arão’s attempt, Diego got the ball above the box and drilled a shot that forced Lamprou to make a diving save. The Ajax keeper couldn’t control the rebound and Uribe got there first to slot it home and tie the match at 2-2.
The teams went into halftime knotted up.
The second half had a lot less flow as both teams substituted liberally. Labyad was the most dangerous man on the pitch for either side, forcing three second-half saves by Alves. Ajax had more scoring chances in the second period and could have taken the game in regulation if not for the outstanding play of Alves in the net for Flamengo.
Around the 76-minute mark Alves made a huge reaction save to deny Victor Jensen from close range, keeping the game tied. Ajax nearly scored the winner at the death with Noa Lang skimming a shot from the right side off the top of the crossbar. Shortly after that, the whistle blew and the game went to spot kicks.
Labyad shot first for Ajax and put the Dutch side ahead. Robert Piris Da Motta used a stutter-step approach and tied it at 1-1 after one round. Lassina Traore restored the Ajax advantage and Rodinei pulled it right back for Flamengo.
In the third round of spot kicks, Dani De Wit and Miguel Trauco both scored and it was 3-3. But Ajax missed its last two penalties. First, Joel Veltman cracked his shot off the left post. Then, after Orlando Berrio roofed a shot to put Flamengo up 4-3 in the shootout, Lisandro Magallan missed his shot badly and sent it sky high into the safe standing section, giving Flamengo the shootout.
Both teams earned a point from the draw with Flamengo taking an extra point in the 2019 Florida Cup standings with the shootout victory.
Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Sao Paulo in the match over at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. The Bundesliga side tops the Florida Cup table after the first night, with three points — just ahead of Flamengo on two points. Ajax is third with a single point, while Sao Paulo is last without a point. The European group has captured four points while Brazil has just two.
The tournament concludes on Saturday with Ajax playing Sao Paulo at 1 p.m. and Flamengo facing Eintracht Frankfurt at 4 p.m. Both matches are at Orlando City Stadium.