Heavenly Ajax produce perfect performance

Real Madrid CF 0-2 AFC Ajax
"It was Ajax at their best" Frank de Boer said as, inspired by Jari Litmanen, Finidi George and Patrick Kluivert, they ran rings around the hosts.

Go back to the 1995/96 group stage as AFC Ajax went to Real Madrid CF to produce a fantastic display and win 2-0.

AFC Ajax could hardly be billed as underdogs ahead of this group stage meeting but the manner in which they overwhelmed six-time European champions Real Madrid CF to seal top spot in Group D was spectacular.

The Spanish titleholders simply had no answer to the pace and intelligence of Jari Litmanen, Finidi George and Patrick Kluivert. The only surprise when the final whistle ended the onslaught was that the difference was just two goals.

Injury had consigned Kluivert to the sidelines for Ajax's 1-0 victory over Madrid on matchday one and the 19-year-old looked determined to make up for lost time at the Santiago Bernabéu. He had already had a fine lob ruled out for offside when he rattled the woodwork with a smart volley as Rafael Alkorta struggled to keep him subdued.

Litmanen was also denied when his free-kick struck the crossbar, the ball appearing to bounce over the line. Madrid were grateful for the reprieve as they sought to build on the previous weekend's 1-0 derby victory over Club Atlético de Madrid, a step in the right direction after a torrid start to the season.

Not that UEFA Champions League holders Ajax were concerned. Indeed, the start of the second period merely signalled the resumption of their forward assault and, midway through the half, they finally broke through the barricades.

Ajax were outnumbered six to two on the counterattack but overturned the odds with aplomb, Kluivert cutting in from the right and prodding through for Litmanen to spring the offside trap and fire in. Eleven minutes later another break ended with Marc Overmars brushing aside Luis Enrique and crossing for Kluivert to divert the ball inside the far post.

"We were heavenly, world class," said Frank de Boer, who watched the game and subsequent lap of honour from the sidelines because of injury. "This was Ajax at their best."

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