After their 2-2 draw in the first leg, both sides looked to express themselves in the opening stages, but it was Ajax who created the chances.
The hosts even had the ball in the back of Odysseas Vlachodimos’ net in the seventh minute when Sébastien Haller prodded home Dušan Tadić’s cross, but the Serbian had been caught offside in the buildup.
Constant waves of ‘De Godenzonen’ pressure ensued as the half progressed, with Edson Álvarez and Jurriën Timber heading over before Ryan Gravenberch’s venomous strike from range was tipped behind.
The second half started where the first had left off and Tadić majestically turned away from Nicolás Otamendi on the edge of the box, only to fire off target.
In the 57th minute, Jan Vertonghen had Benfica’s best opportunity of the game so far when a corner found the former Ajax Player of the Year at the back post, but he headed comfortably wide.
Undeterred, ‘De Godenzonen’ continued to push forward and Antony’s header from Daley Blind’s cross came agonizingly close to finding the top corner.
Ajax came into this match having scored 120 goals across all competitions this term, but ‘As Águias’ were incredibly resolute with Álex Grimaldo, Otamendi and Vertonghen all making last-ditch interventions to deny Haller and Antony with a quarter-hour remaining.
All of that defensive solidity had come with the hope of a chance to secure a winner. That came in the 77th minute when Darwin Núñez rose ahead of André Onana to head in Grimaldo’s free-kick delivery for his 26th goal this season.
Erik ten Hag made late changes as the hosts pushed for an equalizer, but Vertonghen made a brilliant header to deny Haller a late opportunity, ensuring ‘As Águias’ secured just their second win in their last 11 matches away in the Netherlands and UCL progression.
Meanwhile, ‘De Godenzonen’ lost their 100% UCL home record and will likely find their season tainted despite topping the Eredivisie table and being in the KNVB Beker final.