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H. Ziyech (75)
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Johan Cruijff Arena
Ajax v Real Madrid Live Commentary,
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Now unbeaten in eight matches, seven of those ending in victory, Madrid have plenty of momentum on their side ahead of Sunday's home match with Girona in LaLiga. Ajax need to pick themselves up for their Eredivisie clash with NAC Breda on the same day, meanwhile - one of four matches before they lock horns with Solari's men again on March 5. It is still all to play for in that one, even if Madrid do have a couple of away goals.
Real Madrid will take a 2-1 lead into next month's return fixture thanks to what can be best described as a smash-and-grab victory. The reigning European champions saw their opponents hit the post in the first half, on top of having a goal somewhat harshly ruled out following a few minutes of deliberation from the officials - the first time VAR has been used to chalk out a goal in the Champions League. Solari's side then took lead on the hour through a good finish from Benzema and, after Ajax temporarily levelled things up through Ziyech, they went on to score a precious second away goal at the very end courtesy of substitute Asensio.
90' + 4'
FULL-TIME: AJAX 1-2 REAL MADRID
90' + 2'
HUGE CHANCE FOR DOLBERG! This is the chance Ajax would have been craving when falling 2-1 down. Dolberg latches onto Tadic's throughball and has only Courtois to beat, but he slips just when he is pulling the trigger and miscues his shot in the ground, making it an easy save for Courtois.
90' + 1'
Three minutes have been added on at the end of what has been a gripping match in Amsterdam. Should Madrid see through the remaining two minutes this will go down as a real smash-and-grab.
Ramos, making his 600th appearance for Madrid today, picks up a yellow card that will rule him out of the return fixture early next month.
This is a delightful cross from Carvajal, sent into a zone that took out a couple of Ajax players but was there for Asensio to meet. Questions do need to be asked of the hosts' defending, though, with Van de Beek in particular switching off.
GOOOOAAALLL!!! AJAX 1-2 REAL MADRID! Asensio has surely snatched victory for Madrid right at the end of the match! Ajax have gambled somewhat in the closing throes of the game and that shows as Carvajal is played into acres of space down the right. The full-back whips in a delightful ball that neither Onana nor two covering defenders can get to, but Asensio does for a simple finish at the back post. The referee checks with VAR as there was a challenge in midfield, but the goal is allowed to stand.
Ten Hag continues to bark out instructions on the sidelines. The question now, of course, is whether Ajax stick or twist. A second away goal for Madrid would make life incredibly tough for the Dutch side.
CLOSE! The tempo of the match has dropped a little over the last few minutes. Both teams are pressing for a winner and it is Ajax who are looking the more likely to score it, with Dolberg guiding Tadic's cross over the crossbar.
Vazquez sticks out a leg to halt the run of Neres, rightly earning himself a yellow card. The Madrid sub knew that he would not be able to keep pace with his opponent.
Ziyech, who has given Madrid's defenders all sorts of problems today, scored his first Champions League goal with his 30th shot in the competition.
Vinicius, who has had another good game alongside Benzema, is replaced by Mariano for the final 10 minutes. The Brazilian now has eight assists this term.
Asensio nearly catches out Onana with an impressive first-time shot from the edge of the box, which is a yard off target. The visitors have seen plenty of the ball since Ajax levelled up the contest, setting us up for what should be a lively conclusion to the first leg.
Vazquez takes matters into his own hands by shooting from range, but he fails to test Onana with his attempt. Madrid look as though they are about to go back through the gears in search of a winner.
Neres made a good run in behind and then had the presence of mind to spot Ziyech five yards out.
GOOOAAALLLL!!! AJAX 1-1 REAL MADRID! Ajax get a deserved leveller through Ziyech! Neres is played in down the left and slides the ball across goal for Ziyech to finish past Courtois from close range. The referee gives the hosts a fright by indicating that he will go to VAR, but the goal is good to stand.
Dolberg, only on the field for a minute or so, makes a smart run in behind but snatches at the shot when trying to get the better of Courtois. The ball ends over the crossbar from about 16 yards.
Ajax also make a change - their first of the contest - as Schone is replaced by Dolberg.
Asensio is brought on for Benzema to give Madrid some fresh legs in attack for the final quarter of the match.
SIMPLE SAVE FOR COURTOIS! Despite being a good 30 yards from goal, the lively Ziyech opts to take on the free-kick. It is not a bad attempt, either, but Courtois barely has to break stride to keep it out.
Young full-back Reguilon is cautioned for tripping Mazraoui, who was a little too quick for him 30 yards from goal.
Ramos makes a brilliant challenge to prevent Neres getting to Tadic's latest teasing pass. Ajax are the side back in the ascendancy but they have been unable to find a way through on Courtois' goal since falling behind.
Vinicius follows through on Ziyech to concede a free-kick. The youngster appeared to get a little bit of the ball but he was not in control of the challenge.
Madrid continue to knock the ball around, patiently probing away in search of a second goal. Despite being pretty much in second gear all game, Solari's men still have a one-goal advantage to take back to the Spanish capital as things stand.
Madrid are looking far more comfortable thanks to that goal from Benzema. Ajax's levels dropped in the build-up to the visitors' breakthrough and there is a risk that they could concede a second and possibly a third goal before the first leg is over.
After seeing his side edge in front, Solari instantly turns to his bench by bringing on Vazquez for Bale in a like-for-like change.
Reguilon sends Vinicius free down the left and the youngster only has one thing in his mind - cut inside to work the shooting angle. Vinicius spots Benzema in a better position alongside him, though, and he sets up his team-mate to score what could be a crucial away goal.
GOOOOAAALLL!!! AJAX 0-1 REAL MADRID! For the first time today Madrid are given time and space on the ball - and they make Ajax pay. Vinicius creates it by cutting in from the left, taking the ball past three players in the process, before teeing up Benzema to sweep the ball out of Onana's reach from 10 yards. A clinical finish from the Frenchman, just when his side needed him.
Kroos and Modric are being allowed to see more of the ball, with Ajax's energy levels dropping over the past few minutes. There is still more than half an hour to go in Amsterdam and this one remains incredibly tough to call.
Madrid have enjoyed a rare spell of sustained pressure over the past couple of minutes. The best they can muster is a blocked shot from Benzema, though, with Ajax forming a solid wall across the back.
Solari is holding off from turning to his bench for the time being, but that will surely change soon. Ajax are continuing to win the majority of the individual battles and it is they who are looking to more likely to find a breakthrough goal.
Ziyech is shown the game's first yellow card for a tackle on Bale, who has not been too involved in this second half.
NERES COMES CLOSE! It is Courtois' turn to pull off a half-decent stop, this time positioning himself well to beat clear Neres' shot. Ajax are getting in behind freely now, with Tadic pulling all the strings in the final third.
SAVE! Onana gets down well to get two hands to Benzema's low shot. Carvajal was sent clear down the right and managed to pick out his team-mate, but the in-form striker could not quite pick out the bottom corner with his effort.
Nacho hooks the ball clear before Mazraoui can strike it on goal, following yet more good play in the wide positions from Tadic. The home side have pushed on from where they left off in the opening 45 minutes.
Madrid faced 11 shots in the first half - their highest-such tally in the opening 45 minutes of a Champions League game without conceding since February 2010 v Lyon (also 11). The visitors recorded just one shot in the last 30 minutes of the first half, meanwhile.
Ajax, without a knockout stage win over two legs in the Champions League in 22 years, get us back underway in Amsterdam!
The first use of VAR to rule out a goal in the Champions League means that it is still goalless, then, with 45 minutes of the first leg to play. Defending champions Madrid have been far from their best and are fortunate to still be on level terms, even if that Tagliafico goal is proved to have been legitimately ruled out. Solari may well be tempted to turn to his bench before the second half gets underway.
The sides go into half-time all square at 0-0, but Ajax will be wondering how they are not in front. Tagliafico thought that he had opened the scoring for the hosts shortly before the interval when sending a header over Courtois, but the referee - with the aid of VAR - ruled it out. Tadic, who had earlier hit the post with a decent attempt, was just about offside and adjudged to have interfered with play by backing into Courtois. Ziyech was also denied by a good Courtois save, while up the other end of the field Onana has had four pretty simple saves to make.
45' + 2'
HALF-TIME: AJAX 0-0 REAL MADRID
45' + 1'
Schone whips the free-kick in from the left and Courtois slaps it clear, bringing an end to the first half.
Carvajal barges into Tagliafico a yard outside the box and Ajax have a free-kick. Madrid have to see out what will likely be the final act of a lively first half in Amsterdam.
It is worth noting that nobody seemed to complain when Tagliafico opened the scoring for Ajax - the two sets of players made their way back to the halfway line. It is an incredibly harsh call and the home side have every right to feel hard done by. Madrid are holding on as we enter the final two minutes of the half.
UNLUCKY! Tadic toys with Madrid's defenders, cutting inside two players but then poking the ball into the side-netting. Ajax deserve to be in front.
With the home supporters still fuming following that decision to rule out Tagliafico's goal, Schone shoots high over the crossbar. Madrid could do with the half-time whistle around about now!
Incredible! After making his way to the side of the pitch to check countless replays of the goal, Damir Skomina rules it out! I can only assume that a marginally offside Tadic was guilty of backing into Courtois, preventing the Madrid keeper from getting to it.
GOOOAAALLL!!! Ajax lead! Moments after producing a fine save to keep his side level, Courtois fumbles a simple cross and Tagliafico heads it over the Madrid keeper from five yards. It appears to be a perfectly fine goal but the referee Damir Skomina is going to refer to VAR...
COURTOIS DENIES ZIYECH! This would have been a superb Ajax goal, as the ball is shifted to Ziyech via some one-touch football. The Morocco attacker has just Courtois to beat, but the Madrid keeper is quickly off his line and makes the save down low.
Tadic lifts the ball back into the box after it is overhit towards the back post, but Casemiro deals with it. Tadic has had a very good first half, causing Madrid's defenders plenty of problems with his movement across the forward line.
Ajax have been unable to keep up the energy levels we saw in the first 15 minutes of the match - no real surprise there - but that is not to say Madrid have dominated since then. In fact, it is the hosts who have come closest to opening the scoring through Tadic's shot that clipped the post.
ANOTHER BALE ATTEMPT! Brought back into the starting line-up today, Bale is clearly desperate to rack up his 101st goal for Madrid. The Wales forward tries his luck from 35 yards out, sending a shot down the middle that is easy for Onana to deal with.
Half an hour played of a gripping first leg and we remain goalless. Tadic, who hit the post a couple of minutes ago, is flagged for offside despite seemingly being inside his own half of the field - it is easy to see why he is so unhappy with the linesman's decision.
Vinicius has Bale and Benzema waiting for the ball in the middle, but he delays it by a couple of seconds and the cross is eventually cut out.
OFF THE POST! Tadic comes within inches of opening the scoring for Ajax, striking the post with his attempt. The Serbia attacker, who is not afraid to drop deep to pick up possession, turns Ramos and gets a shot away despite losing his balance. The ball swerves and hits the post on its way through.
The Dutch side have registered four shots in the first 25 minutes of the match, but none of those have been on target. That is in comparison to three shots from Madrid, each of those testing Onana. It has been an evenly-matched contest on the whole but there is still a long, long way to go.
Ajax have lost just one of their last 21 European home matches, winning five of their six games at the Johan Cruijff ArenA so far in 2018-19, qualifiers included.
Some good defending from Tagliafico ends Madrid's latest counter-attack prematurely. Ajax themselves look to attack before their opponents can settle, but there is a lack of quality in the final third - the final ball needs improving.
Madrid's midfield trio are seeing a lot more of the ball now compared to the opening 15 minutes. Ajax are still probing away, but they are no longer getting on the ball in and around the opposition box.
Tadic catches Nacho with an elbow to the face and the defender, filling in for Varane at the back today, goes to ground. The referee gives Tadic a little talking to but does not reach into his pocket.
Reguilon charges towards the Ajax box and there is real panic in the hosts' backline, but Bale cannot get the shot away and the attack soon breaks down. Madrid are starting to take control of the match now.
SAVE! Bale makes contact with the corner and Onana has a far simpler save to make than the one produced a minute or so ago to deny Vinicius.
VINICIUS COMES TO LIFE! Madrid, despite being second best so far, are looking lively when they break forward. Vinicius has not seen much of the ball today but he beats his man with ease, cuts inside and curls the ball on target for Onana to help over the crossbar.
Ajax have had more than 60 per cent of the ball in the opening 13 minutes, racking up 90 passes to Madrid's 60. The visitors need to settle or else they will find themselves a goal down.
Schone takes on the free-kick from 30 yards, blasting it straight into the Madrid wall.
Madrid are really struggling to keep hold of the ball, which is down to Ajax's high energy levels - they are barely giving their opponents a moment to breathe. Nacho takes out Ziyech and the hosts have a free-kick in a promising position.
WIDE! If the opening 10 minutes are anything to go by we are in for a real treat today! Ajax once again turn over possession and the ball is slipped through for Mazraoui, who drives a shot wide of the far post.
FIRST SAVE! Ajax really are playing some delightful stuff. Van de Beek lays the ball into the path of Tadic but Casemiro produces a big tackle on the edge of the box. Madrid break and Bale shoots at Onana in the Ajax goal - a save he was always expected to make.
Following a flowing move, with plenty of one-and-two-touch passes, Ziyech sends a shot high over the bar from distance. That was a bit of a waste from the Morocco international.
Ajax, feeding off their vociferous supporters, are really getting at their opponents early on. Casemiro is put under pressure and loses the ball to Tadic, but Ziyech fails to get a shot away when the ball is played to him.
Ziyech floats the ball towards Neres at the back back post, but Reguilon gets his head to it first. The hosts have made a positive start to the match.
Reigning European champions Madrid get this Champions League last-16 first leg underway!
The two teams are now out on the field at the Johan Cruijff ArenA and we are moments away from kick-off. First, a minute's silence for the late Emiliano Sala.
Ajax have lost their last six games in European competition against Madrid, scoring only two goals and conceding 20. The Dutch side’s last victory against today’s opponents came back in November 1995 when prevailing 2-0 in a Champions League group-stage match - Jari Litmanen and Patrick Kluivert scoring the goals at The Santiago Bernabeu.
There are also two changes for the hosts from their last outing, a shock 1-0 league loss against Heracles, as Huntelaar and Kristensen drop down to the bench. There are recalls for Mazraoui at right-back and Neres on the left of Ajax's front three, which also includes Ziyech and an in-form Tadic. The former Southampton attacker has scored five of his side's last six goals in the Champions League, finding the net with 45 per cent of his shots.
Madrid show a couple of changes from their impressive 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid last weekend - a result that lifted Solari's men above their city rivals into second place in LaLiga. Bale scored his 100th goal for the Spanish giants in that victory at the Wanda Metropolitano and he comes in for Vazquez in the frontline, while Nacho replaces Raphael Varane in the heart of defence. Varane did not train with the rest of his team-mates on the eve of the match as he has been suffering from flu - his absence today is a major blow for the visitors.
Real Madrid subs: Keylor Navas, Jesus Vallejo, Dani Ceballos, Mariano Diaz, Marcelo, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio.
REAL MADRID XI (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Sergio Ramos (c), Sergio Reguilon; Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior.
Ajax subs: Dani de Wit, Daley Sinkgraven, Kostas Lamprou, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Joel Veltman, Kasper Dolberg, Rasmus Kristensen.
AJAX XI (4-3-3): Andre Onana; Noussair Mazraoui, Matthijs de Ligt (c), Daley Blind, Nicolas Tagliafico; Lasse Schone, Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong; Hakim Ziyech, Dusan Tadic, David Neres.
Ajax are one of five teams to remain unbeaten at this stage of the Champions League, having alternated between wins and draws in their six group-stage outings. The Dutch giants finished second to Bayern Munich and are now aiming to progress through a knockout-stage tie in this competition for the first time since 1996-97. Erik ten Hag’s side have lost two of their last three Eredivisie matches, however, and they have a poor overall record against today’s opponents.
Madrid make the trip to Amsterdam in strong form thanks to a run of six wins and a draw from their last seven outings, which has helped to revive their campaign. Santiago Solari’s men are now within six points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona, who they also held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final at Camp Nou last week. Still battling for silverware on three fronts, Madrid - winners of this competition in four of the last five seasons, including in each of the last three - now turn their focus to retaining their European crown.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Champions League last-16 first leg between Ajax and Real Madrid at the Johan Cruijff ArenA.