Real’s reign ends with shock defeat
Kings of Europe no more. Real Madrid’s Champions League reign is over.
More than 1,000 days since winning the first of three consecutive European titles, Real Madrid’s unprecedented era of dominance ended with a whimper when the Spanish giants were stunned 4-1 by Ajax at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday.
The humiliating loss meant Madrid were eliminated 5-3 on aggregate in the round of 16, leaving the club looking at a trophyless season in its first campaign since megastar Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus.
“We were not going to win the Champions League forever,” said Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez, who was sent off in the final minutes of the game. “Reigns eventually come to an end. Something like this was going to happen sooner or later.”
In the end, the club renowned for assembling its team with expensive ‘Galactico’ signings was undone by a club centred around a core of homegrown young talents.
Ajax, who are enjoying a resurgence thanks to young stars like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, needed less than 20 minutes to reverse a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, with Hakim Ziyech scoring in the seventh minute and David Neres in the 18th.
Dusan Tadic, who set up both first-half goals, added to the lead in the 62nd, and Lasse Schone sealed the Dutch team’s triumph with a free kick from a tight angle in the 72nd. Marco Asensio had pulled the hosts closer a couple of minutes earlier.
“We always believed we had a chance, and we had 4,000 fans here who believed as well,” Ajax coach Erick ten Hag said. “Over the two matches, we definitely deserve to progress to the next round.”
In Tuesday’s other game, Tottenham won 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund to go through 4-0 on aggregate, reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 2011.