MADRID – Ajax thrashed Real Madrid 4-1 on Tuesday to win their Champions League round-of-16 tie 5-3 on aggregate and end the Blancos’ quest to win Europe’s elite club competition for a fourth consecutive year.
After hoisting the Champions League trophy a record 13 times, Real Madrid find themselves eliminated from the tournament in the knockout stage for the first time since 2010.
And for the third time in just seven days, the Blancos lost a decisive contest on their home ground at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium – a trio of defeats that doom the club to end the 2018-2019 campaign without a trophy.
Already out of the Copa del Rey and the LaLiga title race after last week’s successive losses here to archrivals Barcelona, Real Madrid saw their remaining chance for glory destroyed by Ajax, whose last trip to the Champions League quarterfinals was 16 years ago.
The three-time holders started the night leading 2-1 after winning the first leg in Amsterdam, but Real Madrid were without captain Sergio Ramos, who had to watch from the stands after being suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards.
The hosts had a chance to increase their advantage in the early going, yet Casemiro’s shot bounced harmlessly off the cross-bar.
On a subsequent Real Madrid attack, Toni Kroos went to ground in the area, confident of winning a penalty, only to spur an Ajax counter that culminated with Hakim Ziyech’s beating home goalkeeper Thibault Courtois to even the aggregate score at 2-2 in the 7th minute.
Vinicius Junior, the man the Blancos have come to count on for offensive spark, was energetic as always, yet still lacking in precision in the final third.
Kroos and Raphael Varane failed to exploit chances and Ajax struck again in the 18th minute, when David Neres scored off a spectacular play by Dusan Tadic to put the Dutch side ahead 3-2 overall.
Real Madrid suffered another blow when Lucas Vazquez left with an injury in the 29th minute, to be replaced by Gareth Bale. And the gloom deepened in the 36th minute with the departure of Vinicius following a rough tackle by Noussair Mazraoui.
Bale and Marco Asensio, who came on for Vinicius, tried to spur a rally and the Welshman put a shot on target, though he was denied by the post.
At the other end of the pitch, Courtois made two solid stops against Ziyech to keep the Blancos in the contest heading into half-time.
The hosts were on fire to start the second half. Asensio tried his luck and Karim Benzema came close on successive occasions, the second with a dazzling bicycle kick that paralyzed the Ajax defense.
But Tadic scored in the 62nd minute to give Ajax a two-goal cushion.
The referee spent four minutes consulting with the video assistant before upholding the goal. The scrutiny was directed Mazraoui’s successful challenge against Sergio Reguilon on the Real Madrid goal-line, as the Blancos claimed the ball went out of play before reaching Tadic.
Asensio stirred the 76,000 Blancos supporters with a goal in the 70th minute that narrowed the deficit, but a rare blunder by Courtois set up an easy goal for Lasse Schöne in the 72nd to settle the tie.