Football news - Marco Asensio scores late Real Madrid winner after VAR drama
Champions League last 16 first leg, Johan Cruijff Arena - Ajax 1 (Ziyech 75') Real Madrid 2 (Benzema 59', Asensio 87')
Substitute Marco Asensio came off the bench to give Real Madrid a smash-and-grab 2-1 win over Ajax in Amsterdam on Wednesday amidst VAR controversy.
To say Real rode their luck in the first-half would be an understatement. The energetic hosts completely dominated the opening 45 minutes and they had chances aplenty, too. Dusan Tadic agonisingly struck the woodwork with a sublime volley, while Frenkie De Jong was denied by Thibaut Courtois at point-blank range.
The talking point came about five minutes before the half-time break, when Nicolas Tagliafico looked to have given Ajax a deserved lead after Courtois spilled Matthijs De Ligt's header only for the referee to chalk it out following a VAR review ruling that Tadic was blocking the goalkeeper in a marginally offside position.
referee Damir Skomina cancelled a goal the 1-0 of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League match between Ajax v Real Madrid at the Johan Cruijff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam NetherlandsGetty Images
Ajax's pain was compounded when Karim Benzema thrashed in the game's opener - his 60th goal in the competition - on the hour-mark following a mazy run by teenage sensation Vinicius Junior, but the Dutch grabbed an equaliser through Hakim Ziyech to set up an intriguing finale.
Madrid's quality showed in the end, however, when Asensio snatched victory for Real and put the holders in control of the tie. The sides meet at the Bernabeu for the second-leg on March 5 when Ajax have it all to do to.
TALKING POINT - Ajax pay price for profligacy, not VAR
The historic first use of VAR in the Champions League proved highly controversial. It was incredibly cruel on Ajax who looked like they had taken a deserved lead, but the replays showed that Tadic was millimetres offside when Tagliafico's header nestled in the corner of the net. Ultimately, the correct decision was made - even if it did take almost three minutes. In truth, the decisions of the referee Damir Skomina didn't cost Ajax tonight, but rather their lack of composure in front of goal. And now they have a mountain to climb in Madrid.
Ajax v Real MadridGetty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
Every player in Ajax colours should hold their heads up and be proud, but particularly Tadic. His strength and positional awareness caused Real an absolute nightmare all evening. Playing as a false number nine, Tadic could be found anywhere across the front-line. His distribution was deadly, and on another night the shot that cannoned off the woodwork would have nestled into the back of the net.
Dusan Tadic of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League match between Ajax v Real Madrid at the Johan Cruijff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam NetherlandsGetty Images
- Ajax: Onana 6, Mazraoui 7, De Ligt 7, Blind 6, Tagliafico 7, Van de Beek 6, De Jong 6, Schone 6, Ziyech 7, Neres 7, Tadic 8. subs: Dolberg 5.
- Real Madrid: Courtois 5, Carvajal 7, Ramos 6, Nacho 6, Reguilon 7; Casemiro 7, Modric 7, Kroos 7, Bale 6, Benzema 7, V Junior 8. subs: Vazquez 5, Asensio 8, Diaz N/A
- 26' - OFF THE POST! Dear me, that is agonising for Ajax! Tadic shields the ball really well and then rifles a volley at goal from 25 yards. Courtois can only watch as it cannons off the woodwork before bouncing clear.
- 36' - BIG SAVE! Incisive passes from Ajax carves the Real defence open and sets De Jong up on a plate, but Courtois is off his line to deny his shot at point-blank range. Ajax could be out of sight by now!
- 38' - GOAL DISALLOWED! CONTROVERSY! Oh my, Ajax are ahead! It's nothing more than they deserve. It's a howler from Courtois! The hosts in a corner, the former Chelsea goalkeeper spills De Ligt's header and Tagliafico nods in the follow-up! But wait, the goal is being assessed by VAR. Will it stand? No, the referee chalks off the goal! Tadic is adjudged to have been offside and interfering with play. It is still 0-0!
- 60' - GOAL! Ajax 0-1 Real Madrid: Benzema silences the Amsterdam ArenA as he smashes the ball into the back of the net with a devastating finish. Credit goes to Vinicius Junior who goes on a mazy run, checking inside and riding a couple of challenges to set the Frenchman up on a plate. You have to pity Ajax here.
Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates 0-1 during the UEFA Champions League match between Ajax v Real Madrid at the Johan Cruijff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam NetherlandsGetty Images
- 75' - GOAL! Ajax 1-1 Real Madrid: Ajax have their equaliser! They're all square with the European champions! Neres pulls it back for Ziyech who shows great composure by side-footing the ball past Courtois, sending the home fans wild!
- 87' - GOAL! Ajax 1-2 Real Madrid: Asensio steals in unnoticed and restores Madrid's lead. Talk about smash and grab! The midfielder races in front of Van de Beek to meet Carvaja's delicious cross and he converts from close range.
- Marco Asensio had five shots against Ajax, more than the number of passes he attempted in the game (four).
- Vinícius Júnior has provided eight assists this season in all competitions, more than any other Real Madrid player.
- No other La Liga player has scored more goals than Real Madriden's Karim Benzema (eight) in 2019 in all competitions (level with Lionel Messi).
- Real Madrid faced 11 shots against Ajax, their most in a first half of a Champions League game this season.
- Sergio Ramos is the seventh Real Madrid player to reach 600+ appearances in all competitions.