Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League defeat of reigning champion, Real Madrid, at home turf, Santiago Bernabeu, at the hand of less fancied Ajax Amsterdam, can be seen by many as the end of a golden generation, the dethroning of a true king, and the birth of a new generation of Ajax players. Real Madrid had ruled UEFA Champions League for 3 successive years and was 1 of the fancied clubs to win, but a 1-4 home defeat to Ajax, despite holding a 2-1 advantage, was the least on the bookmaker’s list.
The 1st leg between these 2 clubs ended 2-1 in favour of Real Madrid, an action-packed contest, but overshadowed by controversies. The 2 major talking points that marred the match played at Ajax’s Johan Cruff Arena was a disallowed goal and an intentional yellow card. Nicolas Tagliafico headed opener was disallowed by VAR for a Dusan Tadic’s offside, and then, Sergio Ramos picked up a booking which was later discovered to be a premeditated action by Ramos, which ruled him out of the return leg at the Bernabeu, an action that will now haunt him for a while, as his leadership role was missed in the Real Madrid backline in the return leg defeat.
A masterclass display from former Southampton of English Premier League player, Dusan Tadic, saw the Dutch side took a 1st half lead, 2-0 in an explosive 1st 18 minutes. The Serbian then scored a subline 3rd goal in the 2nd half to pull the match away from Real Madrid. Real pulled a goal back through Marco Asensio, but a 4th Ajax’s goal through Lasse Schone meant Real Madrid will not be defending the UEFA Champions League for a 4th successive year.
The 2nd leg was supposed to be a difficult mountain for the Amsterdam club to climb, but a spirited display by the Dutch side saw them CAME to the Bernabeu, SAW, and CONQUERED, 4-1 on the night, and 5-3 on the aggregate to progress to the quarterfinals stage since 2003, 16 years ago.
Real Madrid’s 1011 days(2years, 9 months, and 5 days since Athletico Madrid defeat in 2016) as champion has been ended by a new generation of young lads from Ajax Amsterdam. The beginning of the end of a talented Madrid squad that includes current world footballer of the year, Lucas Modric, Welsh star, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, former world cup winners, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, and ex-Real Madrid superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo among the Galacticos.
Real parted ways with their talismanic striker, Cristiano Ronaldo in the last summer transfer window, and arrogantly refused to replace him with adequate cover, the current struggle in front of opposition goal is a clear indication that the Portugal international is hugely missed. Real Madrid had reached at least the semifinal since Ronaldo’s 2nd season, 2011-12, at the Bernabeu, players such as Bale, Benzema, Asensio and the young Vinicius Jr found Ronaldo’s shoe too big to lace. Home stadium, Santiago Bernabeu is no more the fortress it used to be as Real has now lost 2(0-3 loss to CSKA Moscow & Ajax) home game already in this UCL campaign, Sergio Ramos’ disciplinary records getting worst by the season, among other worries for Real Madrid.1-4 defeat to Ajax was Real Madrid’s heaviest in a knockout game in Europe, It’s Real Madrid’s 4th lost at the Bernabeu since 2004, their 3rd in history, 1st reigning champion to fail to advance past. round of 16 since Inter Milan in 2010-11, among other stain on their pretty records.
AJAX’S NEW GENERATION
It’s almost a decade and a half since the golden generation of Ajax team ruled Europes elite club competition, the Louis Van Gaal tutored side won the UCL in the 1994-95 season with an exciting youthful team, with an average age of 23 years, a side that includes the likes of Frank De Boer, Edwin Van Der Ser, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Kanu Nwankwo, Patrick Kluivert, Jari Litmanem among other great names of such a talented group. A lot had happened since the generation ended, Ajax struggled to put together such an elite group to challenge in Europe. The best Ajax could achieve in the UCL since then was a quarterfinal place in the 2002-03 tournament, and had failed to advance past the group stage since the round 16 exits in the 2005-06 season.
However, a new wind is blowing, looks like another era has begun with the Dutch side Ajax, a group of young lads have done well for themselves this season. Ajax manager, Erik Ten Hag’s team has performed so well in the current campaign, getting remarkable results especially away from home, Erik side has not lost away from home this UCL campaign, including a 1 all draw at the Allianz Arena, Bayern. The youthful side with an average age of 24, includes much sorts after duo of, Matthijs De Ligt and Frankie De Jong, strikers, Kasper Dolberg and Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech among others.
Ajax defeat of Real Madrid was a remarkable feat, and the lads deserved all the accolades that are been showered on them. They joined a group of trio clubs to have scored 4 or more goals at the Santiago Bernabeu, they become only the 2nd team to eliminate Real Madrid from European competition knockout tie, having lost the home tie. Does this herald another golden era in with the Dutch club, time will certainly tell?
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