Real Madrid – Ajax: Brave Ajax Knock Out Champions League Holders With Historic Performance (1-4)

A youthful Ajax side stole the hearts of many football fans around the world by putting up a brave performance, and getting rewarded for it this time. In a perfect storm of events, Ajax quickly ran out to a two goal lead, which put them in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the game. Real Madrid had their best spell shortly after half-time, but ended up paying the price for a lack of collective structure in all phases of play.

Tactical analysis and match report by Sander IJtsma.


Ajax fans had been in this situation before. In their first encounter, in Amsterdam, Ajax dominated Real Madrid, got all the credits for a good performance, but ended up with a 1-2 defeat after a lesson in efficiency. A seemingly impossible task to overcome. As has been the case in nearly all Champions League games this season, manager Erik ten Hag opted to play Dušan Tadić as the striker in the perennial 4-2-3-1 formation. This meant Kasper Dolberg started from the bench, and all three of David Neres, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech could be featured in the line of three behind the striker.

Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari went for the expected with a 4-3-3 formation featuring Vinícius Júnior, Karim Benzema and Lucas Vázquez up front and the much maligned Gareth Bale on the bench. In midfield, Casemiro started, which meant no Dani Ceballos in this game. While adding defensive stability, this also meant that Ajax had one less expert ball progressor to worry about when trying to press Real Madrid’s midfield . . .

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Sander IJtsma (40) is co-founder and data-specialist of Between the Posts. He is also the man behind 11tegen11, a company that provides player scouting advice and various other data services. Pioneer of the #autotweet to provide match plots on Twitter. Father of two. Now circling back to tactical writing, which was how it all started eight years ago. [ View all posts ]


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