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Champions League: Ajax clean up at Real Madrid

Real Madrid's stars were left baffled and humilated after their 4-1 defeat to Ajax.
Real Madrid's stars were left baffled and humilated after their 4-1 defeat to Ajax. AFP/Javier Soriano

Back in the 1940's the American firm Colgate-Palmolive launched a product to freshen up homes. They called it Ajax and said the bleach had the power to shift deep down stains. On Tuesday night, Ajax, the football club, were equally cathartic at the abode of the European champions Real Madrid.

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The Dutch side overturned a 1-2 first leg deficit to advance 5-3 on aggregate to the last eight for the first time since 2003.

The victory peeled away the haughty fallacies that have corroded Madrid since the departure of Zinedine Zidane who led them to their hat trick of Champions League titles between 2016 and 2018.

Skipper Sergio Ramos, who deliberately got himself booked at the end of the first leg in Amsterdam so he could miss the second leg and be unblemished for the quarter-final, watched from the cosy seats in the VIP stands as his defensive wiles were sorely missed.

The cankered thinking that led the veteran to assume that his teammates would advance to the last eight was highlighted within 18 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu as Hakim Ziyech and David Neres gave the visitors a 3-2 lead on aggregate.

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And it appeared to be dereliction of duty when Dusan Tadic made it 3-0 after 63 minutes.

Though Marco Asensio injected hope when he pulled one back for Madrid in the 70th minute, Lasse Schone's sumptuous free-kick two minutes later killed off Madrid's dream.

"I'm proud of the team," said Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong. "I think all Ajax supporters are proud of us. We're into the quarter-finals and we have to keep going after that and play the way we want to play."

Within seven days, Madrid have lost three times at home. The first two defeats - to Barcelona - deprived them of a place in the Copa del Rey final and left them 12 points behind the pacesetting Catalans in La Liga. The final one ripped their grip from a trophy they have hoisted a record 13 times.

"Here lies a team that made history," bugled the front page of the sports newspaper Marca on Wednesday.

"End of an era," said Diario Sport. "The disaster is huge," wrote Mundo Deportivo.

With 12 games remaining in the Spanish top flight, Madrid are well placed to finish in one of the places leading to next season's Champions League.

Whether stars like Gareth Bale will be there to play in the campaign will form part of the inquest.

"We have a young team with room for improvement," said Madrid defender Dani Carvajal. "It is clear the season is over but we will keep working in the league because that's what we have to do, we have to be professional. That's just how it is."

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