Kroos, Nacho worst of a bad bunch as Real Madrid crash out of the UCL to Ajax
MADRID -- Real Madrid suffered one of the biggest upsets in Champions League history Tuesday as the three-time defending champions lost 4-1 to Ajax on the night, and 5-3 on aggregate to exit the competition.
Madrid's hierarchy can immediately get down to planning the inevitable summer clearout. And given how badly the team played Tuesday, and really all season, a lot of change is needed.
Where do you start? Madrid have ridden their luck plenty of times on the way to UCL success in recent years, with clear flaws in the team not being punished by opponents. Worst of all for many at the Bernabeu was how the team's biggest names were again their worst performers, just as they were in the recent Copa del Rey and La Liga Clasico defeats to Barcelona.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- This was clearly not all Santiago Solari's fault, but he has to take a big share of the blame. Madrid have often been a shapeless mess, even as they won four of the past five Champions Leagues. But they've never been this much of a shapeless mess. Once Ajax's first goal went in there was total chaos -- with no sign that the players were following any tactical plan laid down by their coach.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 5 -- Not at fault for any of Ajax's first three goals, and made at least three decent saves as his defence kept opening up in front of him. Then was caught out as Lasse Schone killed the tie dead by embarrassing the Belgian with a free kick from a tight angle.
DF Dani Carvajal, 4 -- Given a real chasing by Ajax left winger David Neres, especially when losing the Brazilian before he scored Ajax's second goal. His head-down and head-straight-for-goal bursts forward did not help out his attacking colleagues.
DF Raphael Varane, 6 -- Things might have been different if his fourth-minute header had hit the net instead of Ajax's crossbar. Tried to hold things together at the back but could not be everywhere at once.
DF Nacho Fernandez, 4 -- Stepping in for suspended skipper Sergio Ramos, Nacho was caught out of position on both of Ajax's early goals, as Dusan Tadic thrived in the space down the left of Madrid's defence.
DF Sergio Reguilon, 5 -- The most trying night of his first season as a Madrid first-teamer -- as Ajax's super mobile front three regularly opened up spaces down his side. Kept raiding forward, providing the assist for Marco Asensio's ultimately futile goal midway through the second half.
MF Luka Modric, 6 -- The best of Madrid's midfield three, with some driving runs forward rousing the home fans. Overall was shown up especially by the younger, Barcelona-bound Frenkie De Jong.
MF Casemiro, 4 -- Badly caught out for both of Ajax's first two goals, especially when bamboozled completely by Tadic's roulette before the Serbian set up the second. Seemed to give up the holding role completely in the second half in search of scoring a heroic goal.
MF Toni Kroos, 4 -- Blamed by the Bernabeu for losing the ball too easily as Ajax opened the scoring through Hakim Ziyech, he kept trying to make amends but couldn't hit the target from a number of shooting opportunities. The uber-calm German, amazingly, currently appears really low on confidence.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 5 -- One excellent cross set up Varane's header off the post, but otherwise, Vazquez was anonymous before leaving injured on 28 minutes. His supposedly invaluable hard work and tactical nous had not stopped his midfield from being completely ripped apart.
FW Karim Benzema, 6 -- Kept coming deep trying to make things happen, but was well marshalled by Ajax youngster Matthijs de Ligt. His best moment was dummying his way into space with the scoreline at 2-0, but his curler went the wrong side of the far post.
FW Vinicius Junior, 7 -- As so often recently, his dribbles forward looked Madrid's best chance of a goal. Until one such sprint and shot led to the injury which saw him leave in tears on 35 minutes.
FW Gareth Bale, 6 -- Vazquez's injury gave the recent scapegoat for Madrid's issues a chance to be a hero -- and he did make a difference, clipping the post from a tight angle after galloping clear of the defence just before half-time. A bad miss after the break, though, on his right foot, might have kick-started a Madrid comeback in time.
FW Marco Asensio, 6 -- Did at least get one well-taken goal, sliding a low 15-yarder in off the far post. Also scored in the first leg, which suggests Solari should have been using him more lately.
MF Federico Valverde, N/R -- Replaced Casemiro with the tie already long, long over.