Lyon had already proved their Champions League pedigree this season by knocking out tough Russians Rubin Kazan while Ajax, as Eredivisie champions, qualified directly. And they made their intentions clear in the early stages of a group which also includes Real Madrid, naming Bafetimbi Gomis as the only out-and-out striker on their team-sheet. Janssen’s attempt to crack the resolute Lyon defence started as early as the eighth fifth minute when his corner found Derk Boerrigter who missed with a header from six yards.
Boerrigter missed from another Janssen corner in the 12th minute before Lyon had their first chance, Bakary Kone flashing wide with an acrobatic overhead kick from a Kim Kallstrom free-kick. Janssen’s set-pieces continued to cause the French side problems with keeper Hugo Lloris punching clear another corner before Gomis fired over for Lyon at the other end. Ajax had a lucky escape on the half hour when Michel Bastos found space in the box and let fly with a volley which sailed over the bar when it ought to have found the target. And relieved at Lyon’s failure to snatch the lead, Ajax pressed towards the break, Miralem Sulejmani somehow missing with an easy header and Jan Vertonghen nodding wide from yet another Janssen corner.
Lyon set about the second half with renewed purpose, Bastos forcing a rare save out of Kenneth Vermeer and Kallstrom firing wide before Vermeer was in action again to punch clear a Clement Grenier corner. Boerrigter was off target again after 65 minutes for Ajax and that was the last real chance for the home side, with both sides seemingly happy to settle for a point on opening night.
Lyon still had time to almost steal it at the death, Jimmy Briand taking advantage of a mistake by Gregory Van der Wiel to race through on goal, only for the defender to track back and make a superb saving tackle. In injury time, late Lyon substitute Gueida Fofana had a chance to make a name for himself with his first touch but he shot well wide of target and moments later the referee blew for full-time.
The visitors ended the night certainly the happier of the sides as they seek to continue a run which has taken them past the group stages every year since 2003.
Ajax boss Frank de Boer has targeted second place in Champions League Group D as he believes top spot will be secured by Real Madrid.
The Amsterdammers open their campaign on Wednesday night against Lyon with De Boer already dismissing the possibility of his side winning the pool.
And with Lyon expected to be Ajax’s closest challengers – Dinamo Zagreb are the rank outsiders – it is a crucial game for both sides.
De Boer told France Football: “It is very important because it’s a big match in the race for second place.