Ajax put in a great performance but they lost 2-1 to Real Madrid amid VAR contoversy in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

For Ajax’s first Champions League knockout tie in 13 years, Erik ten Hag made two changes to the side that lost to Heracles last weekend. Noussair Mazraoui and David Neres came into the eleven, while Dusan Tadic started through the middle.

Ajax’s tactics worked as their mobile front three caused the Real Madrid defence all sorts of problems in the first ten minutes and a great chance fell to Mazraoui. The right-back raced into the box but pulled his shot side via a deflection.

Real Madrid got a good chance after 13 minutes but Andre Onana was equal to a Vinicius JR strike. After that, Ajax continued to enjoy a lot of possession and through Tadic they had an outlet to get at the visitors defence.

The Serbian came within inches of firing Ajax ahead on 26 minutes with his shot coming back off the post. Hakim Ziyech then found himself in space but Thibaut Courtois made a good save.

In the 37th minute, Matthijs de Ligt’s header from a corner was parried into the path of Nicolas Tagliafico who thought he had nodded in the opener. However, for the first time VAR interfered and the goal was ruled out. Tadic was adjudged to have interfered while in an offside position. It was a huge disappointment for Ajax, who were excellent in the first half.

Ajax started the second half brightly and Neres got in behind the Real Madrid defence but Courtois was equal to the Brazilian’s effort.

The visitors then began to take control and on the hour mark they were in front. Mazraoui was beaten by Vinicius who found a free Karim Benzema, who powerfully fired Real Madrid in front.

Ajax didn’t let their heads drop and with fifteen minutes to go they were deservedly level. Tagliafico won the ball back on halfway before Neres crossed for Ziyech to fire in the leveler.

The game seemed to be heading for a draw but substitute Marco Asensio broke Ajax’s hearts. Dani Carvajal’s cross evaded Onana, who came out of his goal and Asensio had an empty net to prod the ball into.

Kasper Dolberg had a great chance to equalise in injury time when he was played in on goal but he scuffed his shot into the ground.

A cruel result for Ajax, who played so well but they must now score at least twice in Madrid to keep their Champions League chances alive.

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