Ajax 1-2 Real Madrid
A late Marco Asensio strike gave Real Madrid a first-leg lead at the Amsterdam Arena tonight, but it was oh so hard on Erik ten Hag’s young guns.
Santiago Solari said before the game that he saw no reason why Los Blancos couldn’t win a fourth consecutive Champions League.
The Champions League 2019 betting odds pitch Los Blancos to win comfortably, while Ajax are long outsiders. But for long periods of this game, the hosts dominated and could easily have been two up at the break.
Highlights of the game
The home fans loved the news that 21-year-old Frenkie de Jong was fit to play after an injury scare. The midfielder is set to sign for Barcelona in the summer, and this was an ideal test of his El Clasico credentials.
The crowd was in fine voice from the off, as Ajax zipped around, passing crisply and full of confidence.
And it was the Dutch who had the first chance. Full-back Noussair Mazraoui played a one-two with Dusan Tadic before taking a shot on from the angle which flew just wide.
Real Madrid gradually worked their way into the game, but the hosts almost broke the deadlock on 26 minutes. The creative Tadic turned Sergio Ramos on the edge of the box and hit a swerving shot which rebounded back off the post.
Ajax were all over the visitors and should have gone ahead after a superb attacking move when De Jong fed Mazraoui; however, Thibaut Courtois made the save.
And they really thought they had gone ahead when Nicolas Tagliafico headed past Courtois. Nonetheless, after an agonising three-minute wait, the goal was ruled out by the VAR. Tadic was adjudged to be marginally offside and interfering with play. Take a look at the Champions League 2019 highlights and make your own mind up.
Either way, the hosts had been brilliant in the first half and were very unlucky to be level.
They continued to press in the second half, but then the cruellest cut came on the hour. Real Madrid’s wonder kid Vinicius Junior hared down the left flank before finding Benzema with a perfect pass for the Frenchman to convert.
Los Blancos had been underwhelming until this moment but then showed their quality to devastating effect.
Ajax roared back and before the swagger returned to Real’s play, the hosts went back onto the front foot. Tadic and Hakim Ziyech pressed forward and got the goal they so richly deserved.
Tagliafico showed a turn of pace down the left and crossed for Ziyech to coolly finish.
Marco Asensio came close to restoring Real’s lead, but his shot curled just wide. And as the young Ajax legs tired, Los Blancos snatched the winner behind Asensio—who met a cross from Dani Carvajal.
Heartbreak for Ajax but Los Blancos march on.
Ajax came into this game unbeaten in the Champions League this season, 12 games in total including the qualifying rounds. They played without fear, albeit unlucky not to get a result.
Asensio’s late winner made it seven wins in a row for Real against Ajax in European competition, and it was a fine way for Sergio Ramos to celebrate his 600th appearance for Los Blancos.
It was only the second defeat for Ajax in 22 European games on home soil. However, they can feel hard done to, hitting the woodwork and falling the wrong side of a tight VAR decision.
It’s back to domestic matters now, and Ajax are trailing PSV by six points at the top of the Eredivisie following an inconsistent run.
After tonight’s battle with Europe’s finest, they welcome an entirely different prospect to the Amsterdam Arena when bottom club NAC Breda is the visitor. That’s a home win if they play anything like they did tonight.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid have clawed their way back into the hunt in La Liga, now just six points behind leaders Barcelona after five consecutive wins. Los Blancos are back at the Bernabeu at the weekend against Girona. The Catalans are in a relegation scrap after four consecutive defeats and sit a single point above the drop zone.
And when Ajax and Real Madrid get it back on in two weeks time, we’ll be right there with us. Ajax have a mountain to climb, but it’s not over just yet.
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