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, however, 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 marginally offside.
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.