AFC Ajax suffered their heaviest-ever home defeat in European competition when they were steamrollered 4-0 by Real Madrid CF in UEFA Champions League Group G on Tuesday.
In chalking up this unwelcome milestone, shipping one more goal than in a 3-0 Amsterdam loss to FK Austria Wien in the 1989/90 UEFA Cup, defender Toby Alderweireld admitted his side had simply been outclassed. The result ended their hopes of progress in the competition.
"It was like playing ten games [at once] in the Dutch league," the Belgian international told UEFA.com. "We were put under pressure in our own half right from the beginning, and as a defender it meant I hardly had any time to play the ball. A few times I managed to find a free man when I won the ball, but ultimately you're part of a team and if it's not working and you can't create chances then it's not a great feeling."
With Mesut Özil pulling the strings just behind the front line, and Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo ceaselessly darting around in a fluid positional interchange, the Ajax defence endured a torrid 90 minutes. "It's very difficult playing against a player like Ronaldo, he's constantly changing position, moving in from the left to play through the middle," said Dutch international right-back Gregory van der Wiel. "It makes communication with your team-mates very challenging."
Home coach Martin Jol, apparently adhering to the adage that attack is the best form of defence, had fielded an adventurous starting 11. Mounir El Hamdaoui, Luis Suárez and Miralem Sulejmani formed a three-pronged spearhead, with Siem de Jong tucked in as a classic No10. But it was to no avail: the Spanish Liga leaders took control early on and never relented. None of Ajax's forwards made headway against the Madrid rearguard, and captain Suárez was the only one of the four not to be substituted.
Indeed, were it not for excellent saves from the impressive Maarten Stekelenburg, the margin of victory could have been considerably higher. In truth, José Mourinho's Group G leaders won at a canter. "We did what we could, but we gave the ball away too quickly and too often, and in the end it was a question of damage limitation," said Alderweireld.
Yet, despite the stark realisation that the four-times European champions are currently unable to compete with the continent's elite, even when enjoying home advantage, Van der Wiel was not completely despondent. "We're still one point ahead of [AJ] Auxerre, and we know they have to play in Madrid [on Matchday 6], so we should be able to hold on to third spot," he said. Hope springs eternal – and a place in the UEFA Europa League beckons.
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