Asensio hits late winner for Real

HERO: Marco Asensio. Photo: REUTERS
HERO: Marco Asensio. Photo: REUTERS

Holders Real Madrid claimed a fortunate win at Ajax in the Champions League last-16 first leg last night.

The Spanish giants were outplayed by a terrific young Ajax side, who had a Nicolas Tagliafico goal controversially ruled out by VAR’s first telling Champions League contribution, but Marco Asensio’s late winner sealed a crucial advantage.

The controversy erupted when De Ligt powered a header at goal, Courtois could only parry and Nicolas Tagliafco reacted first to nod home. Almost three minutes passed, during which the home fans and players celebrated, before Damir Skomina, having consulted his touchline monitor, ruled the goal out.

The Johan Cruyff Arena was rocking, delighted to have Champions League knockout football back in Amsterdam for the first time in 13 years, and the home side responded with a mesmeric first-half showing.

However, it was Real Madrid took the lead when Karim Benzema blasted into the top corner of the net in the 60th minute after good approach play from Vinicius Jr.

Hakim Ziyech levelled from 10 metres but Asensio scored the winner from Dani Carvajal’s cross.

The Dutch side had the game’s best chances, with Dusan Tadic hitting the post in the first half and David Neres, who set up Ziyech’s goal, shooting straight at Thibaut Courtois in a one-on-one chance.

Substitute Kasper Dolberg missed a big chance in injury-time as he slipped while shooting in the box, with Courtois able to get a hand to it.

The return leg will be played in Madrid on March 5 when Ajax will seek to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 16 years, while Real have not lost a tie at this stage in almost a decade.