Wednesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg ties produced potentially vital wins for reigning champions Real Madrid and Tottenham. Here is what happened in those big clashes.
Champions edge past Ajax with a little help from VAR
Reigning European champions Real Madrid recorded a 2-1 win at Ajax’s Johan Cruyff Arena, with a little help from VAR.
The Dutch giants thought they had taken a first-half lead when defender Nicolas Tagliafico headed home. However, the effort was disallowed, as VAR confirmed that Ajax attacking midfielder Dusan Tadic was marginally offside. The moment was historic, as it was the first time VAR was used to decide a major incident in the competition.
The decision proved crucial, as the visitors took the lead on the hour mark. Brazilian starlet Vinicius latched on to a ball over the top of the Ajax defence and then found striker Karim Benzema who smashed a powerful effort into the top corner of the net.
Ajax scored an equaliser with 15 minutes on the clock, as Moroccan playmaker Hakim Ziyech finished low from a cross. With the game looking set to finish in a stalemate, substitute Marcos Asensio popped up with just three minutes left to finish off an excellent team move.
On the balance of play, Los Blancos were maybe slightly fortunate to win the game. However, the Spanish giants are the favourites to progress from the tie and on current form look to have a decent chance of retaining their crown as European champions.
Tottenham hammer Dortmund at Wembley
Tottenham produced a stellar display to beat Bundesliga leaders Dortmund 3-0 at Wembley to give themselves a good chance of progression to the last 16 of the competition.
The visitors had the better of the first half, as Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris produced good saves from Thomas Delaney and Dan-Axel Zagadou.
However, a brilliant second-half display sealed the victory for the team from north London. Mauricio Pochettino’s team looked far more dangerous in the second period and opened the scoring on 47 minutes.
Tottenham came close to adding a second goal soon afterwards as Vertonghen fired over after a superb solo run, while Danish international playmaker Christian Eriksen shot straight at Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki.
Dortmund struggled to get out of their own half. Spurs did not add to their goal tally until the 83rd minute. Serge Aurier produced a fantastic cross to find centre-back Vertonghen, who made no mistake with the finish.
The side from north London added a third with just three minutes left on the clock, as giant Spanish striker Fernando Llorente headed home from a corner kick. It was nothing less than Tottenham deserved for their much-improved second-half performance.
The victory puts the Premier League outfit in charge of the tie. Dortmund are a tough opposition on home soil. However, the German league leaders have an uphill struggle to turn this tie around and make it to the last eight of the competition.
Can Ajax and Dortmund turn things around in their last 16 ties?