Real Madrid lose 1 - 4 (Asensio; Ziyech, Neres, Tadic, Schone) to Ajax at the Bernabeu as they go crashing out of Europe. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast(s), tactical review, and a ton more.
Almost every single alarm bell that Real Madrid endured in the first leg of this Champions League tie manifested itself again in the second leg, only with the added dose of Ajax efficiency. That press that worked so well for Erik Ten Hag’s men a fortnight ago led to the opening goal of the game, as Kroos was dispossessed deep in Real Madrid’s half.
Ajax took an early lead, but not before Raphael Varane hit the post from a Lucas Vazquez cross. That was a great chance — but Real Madrid’s problem was that Varane had the most shots of any Real Madrid player at half-time with two shots (both headers from crosses after the ball was recycled after a corner kick). In the fold of a disastrous first half, we did see one efficient counter-attack, where Vinicius created space for a left-footed shot which hit the side-netting.
Ajax were much more dangerous. Van de Beek made several off-ball runs that went unchallenged in between the lines (you really miss Sergio Ramos’s leadership and organization there, and again, we have to circle back to the poor decision he made in the first leg to get booked), and Dusan Tadic’s moment of brilliance created Ajax’s second goal, Luka Modric late to cover:
Dusan Tadic’s assist— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 5, 2019
David Neres’s finish
Ajax 2-0 up on the night and 3-2 up on aggregate pic.twitter.com/W3hXN6O8WJ
Neres, the goalscorer, was really dangerous tonight, and created all kinds of danger before and after his goal on Real Madrid’s right flank.
The feeling in the stadium when Ajax scored their second was not good. The loud and large contingent of Ajax fans overtook the Bernabeu, and soon after, there was a sense of panic in Real Madrid’s play, as they immediately conceded counter-attacks, and Ajax were close to making it 0 - 3 within the first 20 minutes.
Amid all this, two of Real Madrid’s most hard-working players, Vinicius Jr and Lucas Vazquez, left the pitch in tears due to injuries — leading Solari to bring on both Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio respectively on the flanks. Those two weren’t bad, and Marco Asensio did play well in particular, scoring a goal against Ajax again — but despite a second half surge from Real Madrid where they pressured Ajax immediately, Ten Hag’s men were just too dangerous on the counter-attack, and Real Madrid eventually ceded a third, and then a fourth.
This was a tough one to swallow. It’s hard for a Real Madrid fan to see the season completely over in early March, with nothing really to play for the rest of the way. When Ajax made it 0 - 3, fans start trickling the stadium with a good half hour to go, and loud chants of ‘Florentino dimision’ rang around the stadium.
There is almost surely going to be big changes this summer. It’s not necessarily easily to speculate exactly what those changes are, but most of you have a hunch. The team had so much difficult with their efficiency in the final third again, to the point that Luka Modric and Karim Benzema had a breakaway in the 84th minute, and didn’t look confident at all — somehow fluffing a sure goal.
Ajax were great tonight. They completely suffocated Toni Kroos and Casemiro — both of whom had a nightmare game on the ball. Blind was great defensively, both centrally, and covering for Tagliafico when he was caught.
There is a lot to break down here. We’ll get to it in the coming hours.
On a side note, this will likely be my last match report from the Bernabeu this season, given there isn’t a real need to cover the team on the ground from this point on. It’s been a blast, even during a tough transition year, and I appreciate you guys being a part of it.