Champions League - Polished Ajax stun Milan
Frank de Boer saw his Ajax side pull off a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory against Milan in the San Siro to claim third place in Champions League Group G.
Superb strikes by Demy de Zeeuw and Toby Alderweireld were enough for Ajax to book a place in the Europa League as caretaker boss De Boer enhanced his prospects of replacing Martin Jol on a permanent basis.
The Dutch side regained some of their traditional swagger with Christian Eriksen looking a class act in midfield.
Already-qualified Milan, who started with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench, were lacklustre in comparison with Brazilian strike duo Robinho and Ronaldinho particularly frustrating.
De Zeeuw's low finish past Marco Amelia on 57 minutes was impressive but defender Alderweireld's bullet drive must go down as one of the goals of the week.
Ajax started brightly with Marco Amelia forced into action inside the second minute. Miralem Sulejmani played in Luis Suarez, who produced a tremendous drive that was parried away at the near post.
The hosts struggled to find their rhythm as Sulejmani cut inside and Amelia needed to pull off another diving stop to keep out the Serbian. From the corner, Jan Vertonghen was penalised for a foul as he headed wide.
Massimiliano Allegri lost Mathieu Flamini to a knee injury, with Kevin-Prince Boateng replacing the Frenchman, and Ajax continued to impress with young Dane Eriksen shining in midfield.
The promising Scandinavian produced a dipping effort from outside the box that was spectacularly tipped over by Amelia, who remained alert to the danger to his goal.
Siem De Jong was unable to profit from a headed opening as Mario Yepes cleared for a corner as Ajax were well on top for the first half hour. Robinho was particularly frustrating for the Rossoneri, as he often drifted into offside positions.
Suarez was booked for diving, even though he was tugged by Andrea Pirlo inside the box, before Amelia was worked again by Eriksen, whose curling shot was comfortably fielded by the keeper.
Suddenly, Milan burst into life when Robinho crossed for Ronaldinho to head straight at Maarten Stekelenburg, forcing the Holland number one to make his first save of the night.
Stekelenburg escaped being caught all at sea from a corner soon afterwards and Alderweireld came to the rescue with a hurried clearance when Robinho centred dangerously after being picked out by Pirlo.
Suarez warmed Amelia's hands with a hearty effort and the Italian keeper ended the half racing from his line to block Sulejmani, even though the offside flag was up.
The start of the second half saw Eriksen feed Sulejmani with a fine pass and the forward went crashing to the deck as Amelia rushed from his goal. It looked a certain penalty but referee Claus Bo Larsen correctly spotted a dive from Sulejmani, who became the second Ajax player booked for simulation.
The visitors went close when Suarez connected with an Alderweireld cross but the ball flew straight at an out-of-position Amelia, who made a smart save.
Thiago Silva rose well to meet a corner but headed wide and it was a rare chance for the Rossoneri. Ajax carried the greater threat and, after a couple of Suarez attempts, they broke the deadlock.
De Jong worked some space but his shot was blocked by Yepes, the ball falling into the path of De Zeeuw who found the bottom corner with an unerring finish.
Gregory van der Wiel collected an Eriksen pass to force Amelia to stretch to clutch the shot and Eriksen saw a shot deflect just wide as Ajax refused to rest on their laurels.
It was soon 2-0 and game over as Suarez tricked his way into the box and laid the ball back for Alderweireld to unleash a stunning shot that gave Amelia no chance.
With Ibrahimovic thrown on, the former Ajax attacker was unlucky with a cheeky shot from a tight angle that was kicked away by Stekelenburg but Ronaldinho looked more likely to be booked than score as he failed to show his top form all night.
Van der Wiel forced a save out of his own keeper and Boateng was unable to force home a Clarence Seedorf cross as Milan sought a route back into the match.
Boateng did hammer the ball into the net but the whistle had long since gone for a foul by Ibrahimovic and time was clearly running out.
It could have been worse for Milan as Suarez danced through to force Amelia to make a splendid diving save at the other end.
Ibrahimovic did fashion a spectacular overhead kick from a Ronaldinho pass that was only just over the top but the night ended with Ronaldinho firing well off target to sum things up for the Serie A giants.
Ajax were excellent and they have the Europa League to look forward to and, surely, de Boer to take over the reins on a permanent basis.