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Ajax unrewarded for strong performance against Real

Ajax unrewarded for strong performance against Real

If football were a sport judged by a jury, the final result of Ajax – Madrid may have been different.  The Ajacieds were by far the better team for most of the game, and created more opportunities.  However, it was Real Madrid who came away as the winner: 1-2.

All of the (allowed) goals were scored in the second half.  Karim Benzema opened the scoring, after which Hakim Ziyech tied the game.  Marco Asensio scored the match-winning goal in the 87th minute, leaving the crowd in the Johan Cruijff ArenA with a bitter taste.  The Ajax fans were naturally disappointed with the outcome, and the way in which Nico Tagliafico’s 1-0 goal had been disqualified in the first half.  The video referee’s decision meant that Ajax didn’t retreat to the locker room with the lead.

Bayern-version, Tadic at centre forward
Coach Erik ten Hag went with Bayern version for the game against Real.  That meant that Dusan Tadic was at centre forward with David Neres in the wing.  Compared to the lost game at Heracles Almelo (1-0), Noussair Mazraoui returned to the squad, taking Rasmus Kristensen’s spot.

In Almelo, Ajax had been disappointing, and the team clearly wanted to set things right against Real.  And it did.  Sparks were flying off the Ajacieds, both literally and figuratively.  From the get-go they put Real under pressure; the opponent could barely catch its breath.

The first big opportunity of the game belonged to Tadic, whose shot hit the post in the 26th minute.  After that, Hakim Ziyech made an appearance in front of Thibaut Courtois as well, but the Belgian keeper won that battle.  Shortly before the break, the tall goalie was beaten when Tagliafico’s header went past him, 1-0, on a rebound from a header by Matthijs de Ligt.  The goal was disqualified on the grounds offside interfering with play after consulting with the video referee.

Real much less dangerous than Ajax
The Ajacieds therefore retreated to the locker rooms in disappointment, knowing that they were not in the lead.  For Real, there had only been one good opportunity, with Andre Onana smoothly saving Vinicius Junior’s shot.

The second half was also open, and Real was first to fire a shot.  Benzema’s shot landed safely in Onana’s hand.  On the opposite side, Ajax had a big chance.  Van de Beek sent Neres in, and he was able to reach goalie Courtois from the right side.  The Brazilian was in prime position to score with his right foot.  But the shot didn’t fluster Courtois.

The was one of many dangerous moments created by Ajax.  That’s what made Real’s opening goal at the one-hour mark doubly painful.  Vinicius Junior, after a rush, sent the bal lto Benzema over the left side, and the Frenchman pulled the trigger: 0-1.

Fresh blood with Dolberg
After 73 minutes, Kasper Dolberg came in for Lasse Schöne, a substitution that was good for Ajax.  Immediately after coming in, the striker had a great opportunity, but Dolberg’s unsure shot went high.

But shortly after, a goal was scored.  Neres was sent up on the left side, and he passed to Ziyech perfectly.  The Moroccan took a shot with his left foot, scoring his first goal in the the Champions League group phase: 1-1.

Ajax wanted more, but it was Real in the end which decided the game vial Asension.  Ajax had one more chance to tie the game up, but Dolberg didn’t manage to convert.