Real Madrid’s debut in the Champion’s League saw them dominate the entire match over an unconvincing and clueless Ajax team. The team came out looking superior on all lengths of the pitch and again looked extremely strong in defence with the pairing of Pepe and Carvalho. Sergio Ramos was a late scratch after being injured prior to the match.
Captain Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ozil and Higuain all got the nod as starters. Their opponents countered with Stekelengburg, Van der Wiel, Alderweireld, Ooijer, Anita, Enoh, Emanuelson, De Jong, De Zeeuw, El Hamdaoui and Sulejmani.
The game started out intense from the start to end with Real Madrid dominating possession and play, Ajax had no time to settle on the ball and as soon as they did there was a Real Madrid player there to put the pressure on.
The first chance of the game fell to the hosts on the 5 minute mark when Higuain took on his marker down the left side of the pitch and put in a good square into the box for Ozil but it was cleared by the defence before Ozil could get to it. The hosts’ second chance saw Ozil play a tricky pass to Khedira who took a touch to settle it and then hit it but his effort went screaming over the bar.
The team’s passing of the ball was eloquent throughout the match and at times seemed to be passing around the Ajax players as if it were a training match. Alonso’s passing in particular was very precise and on very rare occasions did he misplace a pass.
Real Madrid’s 3rd chance of the game, saw yet another run from Ozil but this time down the right flank who then served in a low cross but Stekelenburg got down quickly and held on to prevent it from going through to an eager Higuain to bury. On the 17th minute mark Higuain again in the midst of the attack received a pass from Marcelo, slipped his marker, hit a curling shot from the edge of the box but saw his attempt bang off the cross bar. Real Madrid’s flurry of attacks continued and on the 24th minute mark saw yet another shot on target this time from Di Maria who came flying down the right hand side of the pitch cutting in onto his strong left foot and whipping in a shot but it wasn’t enough to beat Stekelenburg, who saved pretty easily. Di Maria had another chance on goal after a quick one-two with Ozil but again Di Maria’s shot was smothered by the Ajax shot stopper.
Ronaldo had a less than impressive night marred by bad touches, misfortune and poor decision making. On 27 minutes after a long pass out the back to Cristiano, who took it in his stride, took on his defender and went for goal but his effort was easily stopped by Stekelenburg who managed to put it out for a corner.
The first questionable call of the day came after there was a delightful quick play, Ronaldo to Ozil to Di Maria who then ran through two defenders into the box and what seemed to appear at first glance was Stekelenburg taking down Di Maria but on replay it shows that he did indeed get some of the ball. I guess UEFA’s employment of the two added referees behind each goal has been to great effect in match day one.
To illustrate Real’s dominance of the match, Ajax’s first chance came on 29 minutes from De Zeeuw but his shot went WAY over the cross bar. The hosts final got their breakthrough on the 31st minute through Higuain after a Xabi Alonso corner was whipped in to the near post, hit Higuain’s thigh and went into the net.
Ajax had next to no chances in the first half and they looked absolutely uninspired. The buildups to their plays were sloppy and their set pieces were easily dealt with by Real’s defence.
Another great play for the hosts started with the Marcelo after the little Brazilian worked his way into the box and found yards of space, should have gone for goal but instead opted to square the ball for Higuain who mis-hit and the ball landed to Di Maria whose curling shot went just over the crossbar. There were at least another handful of great chances for the home side including another long range hit from Di Maria but it was easily saved by Stekelenburg.
The beginning of the second half saw more of the same from Real Madrid and more or less of the same from Ajax. Real Madrid dominated and created many more chances with the team having chances on goal from all angles of the field. The hosts’ second goal of the game came in the 71st minute after a splendid play by Di Maria who flicked the ball in superbly for Ozil and he took it down delightfully and took a strike but Stekelenburg saved but unfortunately for him the rebound fell at Ozil’s feet and he chipped it neatly over to Higuain who hit it into an empty net.
The rest of the match saw Madrid continue to dominate and Ajax continued to crack under the pressure but the hosts finishing, much to my displeasure, was a bit dismal. Ajax managed to create two chances that tested Casillas. The first coming in the 78th minute- a nice strike by Emanuelson to the far post, clanked the crossbar and the rebound fell to Sulejmani who took his strike well forcing Casillas to jump back onto his feet and palm it away.
The game saw the return of Lassana Diarra back from injury after his hamstring strain in Mallorca and the debut of two young players, Pedro Leon and Canales. After the match both Canales and Pedro Leon were happy for their debut in the Champion’s League and had this to say in their post match comments.
The team played a thrilling game and players that stood out were Ozil, Higuain, Di Maria, Alonso and Marcelo (who was heavily involved in much of the attacks down the left side of the pitch and looked unperturbed in defence). I must say however if I am to choose one player on the pitch for man of the match it would certainly be for the young German Ozil. He was never standing around waiting, he always looked for space to get in to receive passes, took on his marker when the opportunity presented itself, made numerous key passes through out the game, had an assist and he never complained when he got fouled he just got up and got on with it. Great play from the lad and I hope to see plenty more of the same from him.
Mourinho himself was quite impressed with his team’s display and this was his post-match conference.