Youthful Ajax reinvent Total Football in Bernabeu to overwhelm featureless Real Madrid in last-16 minutes

On a night of extraordinary football, Ajax Amsterdam’s ensemble of feather-thin youth dissected the kings of European football with superb precision in the 62nd minute as they overwhelmed a formless and featureless Real Madrid with barnstorming, reinvented Total Football. Noussair Mazraoui kept the ball in play with a slide near – and almost over – the touchline, Hakim Ziyech passed to Nicolás Tagliafico and after a touch from Donny van de Beek the ball meandered gently to Dusan Tadic, whose composure, execution and turn to score a superlative third goal were but a microcosm of his outstanding 90 minutes.

The build-up play had been seamless, much like Tadic’s and Ajax’s entire game. They played with conviction and impetus, overpowering a team without cohesion, an eleven that presented itself as a group of fading and isolated prima donnas, whose tired and dejected mode of play were no match for the collective superiority of the Dutch. Above all, Ajax demonstrated that football is still a game, a pastime to enjoy and to thrill. There were levity and gaiety to their game that was both virtuous and playful, yet artistic and forceful.

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