Scintillating Ajax knocked Real Madrid out of Champions League

Real Madrid have been knocked out of the Champions League as the holders crashed out in spectacular fashion against Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Despite losing the first leg 2-1 at home, Ajax secured a stunning win in the Spanish capital to ensure the 2017-18 Champions League winners fell at the first hurdle of the knockout stages – a result which leaves Santiago Solari’s future as coach uncertain.

The humiliating defeat completed a miserable week for Real Madrid, who have monopolised the competition since 2016 and are now left with nothing to fight for this season after back-to-back defeats to Barcelona had knocked them out of the Copa del Rey.

Coach Santiago Solari may yet cling to his job until the end of the season but surely stands no chance of remaining for the next campaign after overseeing an almighty collapse to an exciting yet largely inexperienced Ajax side.

Ronaldo rescued them last season in the quarter-finals and then Gareth Bale won them the trophy, but the former is gone and the latter started on the bench here, dropped again by Solari.

Real headed into the second leg of their round-of-16 tie confident of progressing given their 2-1 aggregate lead following their win in Amsterdam – though Ajax had consistently threatened the holders. No side has ever recovered from a 2-1 first-leg home defeat to go through in the Champions League knockout stages, but Ajax made a dream start at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

After Raphael Varane headed Lucas Vazquez’s cross against the crossbar, Dusan Tadic set up Hakim Ziyech to open the scoring after seven minutes and haul Ajax level at 2-2 in the tie. And 10 minutes later David Neres rounded Thibaut Courtois to make it 2-0 after latching onto a Tadic through ball.

Marco Asensio pulled one back for Real moments later but almost immediately the visitors restored their three-goal advantage. Lasse Schone sending a superb free-kick into the net to make it 4-1 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate.

The electric Dusan Tadic, provider of his side’s first two goals, then added a brilliant third as he whipped an effort into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Chasing a fourth consecutive Champions League triumph, Real looked to have gained a lifeline when Marco Asensio scored with 20 minutes remaining. But Ajax midfielder Lasse Schone scored a spectacular free-kick just two minutes later to leave Santiago Solari’s side requiring three goals to progress.

Their miserable night was compounded as Nacho was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence, and Ajax became the first team to overturn a 2-1 first-leg home defeat in the Champions League.

 

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