Kings of Europe no more. Real Madrid’s Champions League reign is over.
More than 1,000 days since winning the first of three consecutive European titles, Real Madrid’s unprecedented era of dominance ended with a whimper when the Spanish giants were stunned 4-1 by Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The humiliating loss meant Madrid were eliminated 5-3 on aggregate in the round of 16 as they appear set for a trophy-less season in their first campaign since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus.
“We are sad. We are hurt,” under pressure coach Santiago Solari said.
“We gave our best but it wasn’t enough. All we can do is come back tomorrow and keep working hard.
“The season continues and we have to keep playing.”
Real, renowned for assembling their team with expensive ‘Galactico’ signings was undone by a club centred around a core of homegrown young talents.
Ajax needed less than 20 minutes to reverse a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, with Hakim Ziyech scoring in the seventh minute and David Neres in the 18th.
Dusan Tadic, who set up both first-half goals, added to the lead in the 62nd, and Lasse Schone sealed the Dutch team’s triumph with a free kick from a tight angle in the 72nd.
Marco Asensio had pulled the hosts closer a couple of minutes earlier.
“We always believed we had a chance, and we had 4,000 fans here who believed as well,” Ajax coach Erick ten Hag said.
“Over the two matches we definitely deserve to progress to the next round.”
Ajax were playing in the last 16 for the first time since 2006 and will be making their first quarter-final appearance since 2003
In Tuesday’s other game, Tottenham won 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund to go through 4-0 on aggregate and reach the last eight for just the second time.
Harry Kane’s 49th-minute goal made him Tottenham’s record goal scorer in European competitions with 24 as Mauricio Pochettino’s men held off the challenge of the hosts, who dominated possession and the chances in the second leg.
“For me, to move to the next level or the last level, I think it is not only today to show a very professional performance,” the Spurs boss said.
“It is so important to be in the quarter-final but you need to show more if you want to be at the next level.”
Spurs looked efficient and clinical over the two legs, avoiding any of the mistakes that led to a bitter exit last year at the hands of Juventus at the same stage.