Real Madrid eliminated from Champions League after humiliating defeat by Ajax



Real’s season over

Real Madrid started the match like a team possessed, unrecognizable from the insipid side which was second best for much of the first leg three weeks ago.Lucas Vazquez swung in an enticing early cross which Raphael Varane could only head against the crossbar from just five yards.But the defensive fissures which have blighted the defending champion this season began to show, as Ajax’s slick passing began to expose Real’s backline.Sergio Reguilon — the much-vaunted left back brought in to replace veteran Marcelo, now seen as a liability — lost possession from a throw, gifting Dusan Tadic the ball.

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale gestures during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 5, 2019.

Substitute Gareth Bale failed to make an impact and suffered yet another injury.The Serbian picked out the run of Hakim Ziyech, who arrived late into the box and finished past Thibault Courtois with aplomb.Los Blancos refused to heed that as a warning and it would take just 10 minutes for Ajax to double its lead.Tadic was again the creator, producing an outrageous piece of skill as he wove his way through Real’s midfield and found David Neres, who rounded Courtois to slot home.The Bernabeu fell silent as Real Madrid — the 13-time European Cup winner and champion in four of the last five seasons — plodded helplessly around the Barely 20 minutes had been played but it was already a performance which had reduced several fans to tears.This young Ajax team, who some predicted would wilt under the pressure of playing at this venue, continued to pour forward relentlessly, creating chance after chance.Midfielder Frenkie de Jong — one of several Ajax academy products on the field — put in an imperious performance, making good on the cheeky promise he had made to new employers Barcelona, who he will join in the summer, to knock out Real Madrid.

Hakim Ziyech celebrates Ajax's first goal with Dusan Tadic in front of the Real Madrid fans.

Hakim Ziyech celebrates Ajax’s first goal with Dusan Tadic in front of the Real Madrid fans.Ajax will, however, have been aware that a similar pattern to that of the first leg was emerging — creating chances but failing to take them — a game which Real went on to win.Despite a lackluster performance, Real did continue to provide a threat. Substitute Gareth Bale, on for the injured Vazquez, rattled the woodwork before Varane headed wide.But the host’s night went from bad to worse, as Vinicius — undoubtedly Real’s most dangerous player — was forced off in tears with injury.

Not tonight, VAR

It would take little more than 15 minutes of the second half for Dutch visitor’s to put the tie to bed, though confirmation of Ajax’s third goal seemingly took an age.After Tadic had slammed the ball into the top corner after a flowing Ajax move, referee Felix Brych entered into a more than four-minute consultation with his video assistant referee.The German wanted to know whether the ball had in fact gone out for a throw when full back Noussair Mazraoui made a tackle to start the move.After an agonizing wait for those Ajax fans in the rafters of the Bernabeu — and the brave few who were hidden among the home crowd, but exposed by their celebrations — Brych confirmed the goal would stand.

Real Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois concedes a fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 5, 2019.

Thibaut Courtois watched helplessly as the fourth Ajax goals sails into the net.Real’s suspended captain Sergio Ramos — so often the man to haul his team across the line on the big occasion — could only watch on helplessly from somewhere in Madrid, surely now ruing his decision to pick up a deliberate yellow card in the first leg.With 20 minutes remaining, Marco Asensio gave Real Madrid a glimmer of hope by firing in from the edge of the area.That hope, however, was extinguished within two minutes, as Lasse Schoene’s exquisite free-kick from an improbable position secured Ajax a passage through to the quarterfinals.Defender Nacho, in to replace Ramos, was shown a red card for petulantly kicking out in the dying seconds, a fitting way for this flailing Real team to bow out of the Champions League.

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