REPORT | 13/02/2019 | Javier García | PHOTOGRAPHER: Helios de la Rubia/Antonio Villalba (Ámsterdam)Goals from Benzema and Asensio clinched the win for Real Madrid in the first leg of the last-16.
- Champions League
- Round of 16 (First-Leg)
Ajax put their stamp on the game right from the off, pressing and playing with real ferocity looking to unsteady the madridistas. The Whites looked to the speed of Vinicius and Bale to break away on the counter. The Welshman tested Onana for the first time on 7’. Mazraoui, then tried the very same for the hosts shortly after on 9’, lashing a shot across the goal mouth. Solari's team had their clearest chance of the half on minute 14, as Vinicius shook off his marker and forced the Ajax keeper into a fine save.
The game was wide open at this point. Real Madrid tried to slow things down, but Ajax had other ideas, pushing forward at a frenetic pace. On 25’, Tadić came dangerously close to putting his side ahead, only to hit the post. Five minutes later, Bale tried to create something special from outside the box. The hosts were now clearly looking for a goal before the break. Courtois was on hand to make a superb save after a dangerous Ziyech effort. On 39’, Ajax had a corner, which Tagliafico put into the back of the net before the referee ruled it out after using VAR. The half time whistle blew just after Courtois stood tall yet again to deny Schöne.
Both sides fashioned chances after the restart. In the 51st minute, Onana kept out a first-time Benzema strike after he was picked out by Carvajal, whilst in the very next move, Courtois was on hand to deny Neres. Real Madrid ultimately made the breakthrough in the 60th minute, with two of the players who've been influential in the team's recent run of form having a big hand in the goal. Vinicius, who once again played a decisive role, got past his man down the left and teed up Benzema, who finished with aplomb to bring his tally for the season to 19.
Asensio hits winner
After getting their noses in front, the Whites sought to take the sting out of the contest, although Ajax kept plugging away. With 75 minutes on the clock, the hosts regained possession in the middle third and the move culminated in Ziyech drawing the Dutch side level. There were 15 minutes remaining with everything to play for. Lucas Vázquez and Asensio, who offered a fresh pair of legs from the bench, both tried their luck from range. If there was to be a winner, Madrid looked the more likely side and the goal duly came in the 87th minute, when a stunning cross from Carvajal found Asensio, who turned the ball home. The high tempo of the game continued right until the final whistle. Ramos received a yellow card that will mean he now faces a suspension, whilst Courtois outfoxed Dolberg, when he found himself clean through in the injury time. Madrid held on to secure victory in the stadium where the club lifted its seventh European Cup crown to take a first step towards the Champions League quarter-finals.